How consumers can take control of their data, according to Truework’s CEO

Over the past two decades, digital footprints have expanded consumer lives. While widespread digitization has brought welcome benefits, it has also opened the door to identity theft and other cybersecurity problems. As a result, many people feel helpless when it comes to keeping their personal information private.

Pew Research studied the relationship between consumers and online privacy in 2019. The results showed that most Americans felt they had lost control of their data. For example, 81% of Pew survey participants said they couldn’t do anything about the data companies collected about them.

Some regulations and laws, such as the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) and the European General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), address this issue. However, there are still holes in the system. That is why I went in search of the insights of entrepreneur and advocate of privacy rights Ryan Sandler, the CEO of Truework.

Sandler’s company has become one of the most trusted platforms providing third-party income and employment verifications. Recently, Truework raised $50 million in a Series C fundraising round. The company plans to use the inflow of capital to continue to grow and protect its network of consumers, businesses and nonprofit users.

Serenity Gibbons: Let’s get right to the heart of the matter and talk about the top concerns consumers have about their data when it comes to income and employment verification.

Ryan Sandler: Believe it or not, one of the biggest concerns is data accuracy. The Wall Street Journal recently wrote about: consumers who receive loan rejections because their credit scores were incorrect. This is heartbreaking and should not be happening.

Other concerns have to do with what I call the “four Cs”: coverage, complexity, closing time, and cost. In terms of coverage and complexity, consumers want a system that gives them a streamlined, secure way to send all their data to one place for employers and lenders to see. Having everything available in one place reduces the time it takes to close. Ultimately, this efficiency affects the costs associated with verifying the protected data.

Gibbons: That’s a lot of worries. Do you think they are all valid?

sander: They are absolutely valid. Consumers have been out of control over their data for a while and that’s a problem Truework is trying to solve. Building the future with a customer-centric mindset plays a role in every decision we make at Truework. We put millions in control of their data and streamline the lending process for both lenders and borrowers. When I worked at LinkedIn, I was shocked to discover that income data was often sold behind the scenes without the consumer’s knowledge—or their consent.

Your income, my income… these are some of our most personal details. Many people don’t discuss their salary with their family members or friends, and they certainly don’t want that information to be sold without their input or knowledge.

Gibbons: That’s creepy. It also seems to point to the fact that companies have a responsibility to protect consumer data, including employee records.

sander: They do. Companies are expected to protect private data from the possibility of breaches. Of course, that starts with their infrastructure and their ability to keep up with security certifications and best practices. But companies need to go a step further and also get consumers’ consent to share data.

Gibbons: You list your company, Truework. What are some of the ways Truework’s processes address these key consumer data issues?

sander: Let’s start with the coverage. We use a “waterfall” system that allows us to securely and quickly obtain income and employment data from up to 95% of US-based employees, including those in the gig economy. We are set up as a one-stop, single integration clearinghouse using the most up-to-date authentication and data sources.

When a company, such as an employer or a lender, needs to verify a consumer’s data, we check the 35 million records in our instant network. If we have someone’s information in those records, we email them for permission to release the information. If we don’t have the information, we ethically and responsibly seek it out as part of the comprehensive waterfall system. Our goal is to be customer-centric and return control and privacy every step of the way.

Gibbons: I understand that Truework is also a credit reporting agency (CRA), is that correct?

sander: Yes. Truework operates as a CRA. As a CRA, consumers can flag incorrect data that they notice. This increases the confidence of both consumers and the lenders, as well as employers who rely on the data they receive. In the rare event of an income report error, we don’t charge customers for the data and make it easy for consumers to change it.

Gibbons: What do you see as the future of consumer privacy?

sander: I expect we will see more laws and regulations to better protect consumer data. From our perspective and our success, we’ve proven that putting consumer needs first can make a huge dent in privacy issues, while still allowing data to flow securely and quickly from consumer to lender.