A controversial federal government initiative to keep close tabs on consumers’ Web browsing habits and other information recently came to light, and the program reportedly also kept close tabs on borrowers’ credit card transactions.
The National Security Agency’s PRISM program was put into place as part of the nation’s anti-terrorism efforts, but many critics say it went too far in mining data from not only some of the Internet’s largest data aggregators — like Google, Apple and others — as well as cell- and landline phone service providers AT&T, Verizon and Sprint, according to a report from the Wall Street Journal. However, the NSA has also had these same relationships with some of the nation’s largest credit card companies.
However, it’s currently unclear whether the credit card transaction monitoring program is still ongoing, or if this was a one-time collection of massive amounts of data, the report said. It’s further unclear exactly just how many consumers might have been affected by this data collection effort.
Those who defend the program as a necessary part of protecting the U.S. say that it’s important to note that the actual content of phone calls, emails, or even credit card transactions isn’t being collected, the report said. Instead, the NSA is only gathering what is known as “metadata” on users; that is, who is on both ends of communications, as well as when, how and where they’re doing it.
The government isn’t the only entity that may be trying to obtain credit card information on consumers nationwide, though. Many criminals may be targeting their sensitive data as a means of committing identity theft and racking up thousands of dollars worth of fraudulent debts that can cause significant financial problems if they’re not noticed for some time. This is why it’s important for consumers to regularly keep a close eye on their financial statements, credit reports and credit scores to make sure everything is as it should be.