Status: March 24th, 2021 6:00 p.m.
Germany’s largest credit agency is discontinuing its controversial “CheckNow” project in its current form. With this, the Schufa apparently reacts to public criticism as a result of research by NDR, WDR and Süddeutscher Zeitung.
From Lea Busch,
Peter Hornung (NDR) and Massimo Bognanni (WDR)
As a spokeswoman for Schufa confirmed on request, the “CheckNow” project, which is controversial under data protection law, will no longer be pursued in the form previously planned. Had in November 2020 NDR, WDR and “Süddeutsche Zeitung” reveals that the Schufa was planning to evaluate consumers in certain cases on the basis of their account statements and to develop their own products with the data collected.
“CheckNow” in its original version should actually enable people with poor creditworthiness to still get a mobile phone contract, for example. In order to get a “second chance”, customers should give their consent for the Munich Schufa subsidiary Finapi to look at their online bank account. The company can then use the account turnover to assess solvency. If this had been better than the previously stored data showed, the customers could have got the mobile phone contract. In a pilot project, Schufa tested the new project with customers of the telephone provider Telefónica / O2.
Consent in extensive evaluation planned
The core of the public criticism, however, was another consent that the Schufa obtained after research by NDR, WDR and SZ wanted to issue a small tick in the pilot project. Whoever clicked on this gave Schufa permission to evaluate the sensitive account statements extensively for other purposes – possibly to the detriment of the customer.
Particularly interesting for the credit agency would have been risk factors such as payments to gambling companies or debt collection companies, but also return debits due to insufficient funds in the account. Those who give their consent to such evaluations are “completely naked”, criticized the former Federal Data Protection Commissioner Peter Schaar in November. This could have resulted in extensive personality profiles or – as consumer advocates feared – even a kind of “super score” that could have permanently harmed many consumers.
Massive criticism from privacy advocates
So now the Schufa is rowing back significantly – also because state data protection officers have repeatedly criticized the plans and called for changes. Consumers would have to be shown transparently what they should consent to and what corporate customers should then be told to Schufa, according to their demand. According to a company spokeswoman, Schufa is now planning “to notify end consumers of the result of the account analysis in advance so that they can decide for themselves whether they want to transmit it to the (potential) contractual partner or not.”
Specifically, this means: account access with permission, yes, but only passed on if it improves the rating and you have agreed again. According to the new concept, no more data should flow from the Schufa subsidiary Finapi for further analysis and permanent storage to the parent company in Wiesbaden – which data and consumer advocates had complained about. Take into account all these points of criticism “for a final product,” says Schufa.
No customers for controversial project
The Schufa could not earn any more money with “CheckNow” anyway – there was simply a lack of customers. The project started on November 4, 2020 with Telefónica / O2, referred to by Schufa as the “first product test”, was unilaterally terminated by the mobile phone company at the end of November after NDR, WDR and SZ had made the project public. The company repeatedly emphasized that no data was initially saved on this project. They just wanted to first determine how consumers would accept it.
Schufa discontinues controversial project
Peter Hornung, NDR, March 24th, 2021 4:08 pm