Nov 18, 2022 - Technology

Exclusive: TransUnion testing new "token" to revamp data security

Illustration of a briefcase with a lock on it

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Credit reporting agency TransUnion is testing a new token-based technology to prevent sensitive customer information from being shared whenever a third party requests a credit report, the vendor behind the tech first told Axios.

Why it matters: If adopted, the token could allow TransUnion to encrypt customers' sensitive data and limit its spread — adding another layer of security to the hordes of data the credit reporting agency collects on people.

Details: Spring Labs' new service, TrueZero, encrypts sensitive user information in tokens before it lands on a client's servers.

  • Once encrypted, the token ensures that "no third party is able to steal or see any of this sensitive data," says Spring Labs CEO John Sun.
  • In TransUnion's case, that could mean any vendor requesting someone's credit report should see only relevant information like payment history or collections information.
  • Sun tells Axios that "anything that's used universally as an identifier for that customer" is considered sensitive information, including Social Security numbers, dates of birth, phone numbers and email addresses.

The big picture: Financial institutions have been slowly but surely adopting tokenized technology to better secure customers' data in recent months.

  • Visa said in August that the company had issued more than 4 billion network tokens worldwide, surpassing the number of physical cards in circulation. The tokens replace the traditional 16-digit account number with an encrypted code.

What they're saying: "Obviously, there's always going to be entities that are going to need to collect information about you," Sun says. "But our goal is to make sure that that doesn't propagate throughout the ecosystem every time there's a question about your history or your credit or anything like that."

Between the lines: Credit reporting agencies have been at the center of several data breaches in recent years, underscoring the need for new security measures.

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