Creditworthy: A History of Consumer Surveillance and Financial Identity in America by Josh Lauer

Lisa Glover


In September of 2017 Equifax, one of the three major consumer credit reporting agencies in the United States, announced its system security had been breached and confidential consumer information may have fallen into the hands of hackers. Although reports of system intrusions are released almost daily, this breach was of particular significance: sensitive data, including personal, identifying and financial data, was compromised for an estimated 143 million consumers in the United States. Just this week, Equifax further disclosed another 15 million client records were breached in the United Kingdom. Any consumer who has received credit of any kind is familiar with the big three credit reporting agencies—Equifax, TransUnion, and Experian—as these agencies house the financial identities American consumers. With such vast data stores, credit reporting agencies are prime and potentially profitable targets for hackers. All the information a hacker needs to steal a financial identify of a victim resides in the agencies’ files. Clearly, credit reporting agencies play a critical role in the financial marketplace. How these agencies became the powerful guardians and suppliers of consumer financial information is the topic of Josh Lauer’s book, Creditworthy: A History of Consumer Surveillance and Financial Identity in America. This is the first book authored by Lauer, who is an associate professor of media studies at the University of New Hampshire with specialties in media history and theory, communication technology, consumer and financial culture, and surveillance. Lauer relates in great detail how we moved from a society of relationships and human interaction to one of faceless data designed to symbolize character and reputation. Lauer’s history takes us from a time when Americans desired access to goods and services more than they valued confidentiality, to the financial privacy concerns of these surveillance systems today.

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