Alongside many people’s photos, music, and movies, something else is streaming to the cloud: millions of pay stubs. Some see a storm brewing up there.
“It’s the sale of our own personal data that really needs to be questioned and protected,” said Pavan Kochar, CEO of the company Certree in San Mateo.
Outsourcing & Automation
Let’s look at how all those pay stubs get uploaded.
Get a weekly recap of the latest San Francisco Bay Area housing news. Sign up for NBC Bay Area’s Housing Deconstructed newsletter.
The way it was, any time you’d apply for a car loan or mortgage, you would have to fork over paystubs on paper or by fax. Then, the bank would call your boss to verify your income. Not anymore.
Today, payroll and data companies automated those steps, online. All your boss has to do is share every worker’s pay stub… every pay period. Millions of companies do.
“This is all a very hidden process that has not really been talked about,” Kochar said.
Zero Loans; 150+ Paystubs in Cloud
So, what does this invisible exchange mean for you? Look at me. I haven’t applied for a loan in years -- and I don’t plan to. Yet, every two weeks my paystub gets saved on a third-party server -- where I have zero control to opt out or delete my data. As of last check, there were more than 150 in my file. (More about how to see it later.)
Several Bay Area companies are now challenging the current pay stub cloud. Certree is one of those disruptors. “We’re proud to be a Silicon Valley company,” Kochar said. One of her main concerns is ID theft. “The reason for that is because the individual is not in the loop,” she said.
The biggest pay data service is called The Work Number. Its owner, the credit report company Equifax, says only people like loan officers are supposed to look at your pay data. However, it also lets debt collectors in. Equifax said it does audits to catch imposters. Kochar sees a weakness. She says the solution is giving you control of your pay data.
“Really, should be issued to you directly,” she said. “And now, it can be.”
Disruptors Develop Digital 'Vault'
Certree says it’s reinventing the pay stub cloud. Here’s how: a service that puts each worker’s pay info (and more, if you wish) into a ‘personal vault.’ Kochar said, iIt’s like a bank safety deposit box at a bank. Where the bank has a key, you have the other key, and without your key the bank could never open the lock box. It’s a very similar construct.”
Certree’s says its secure ‘vault’ gives you total control. Its user agreement even lets you opt out and delete your pay stubs from the cloud.
Equifax, which says it has pay data on more than half the U.S. workforce, says it offers some control. You can view your file online and see who’s accessed your pay stubs. (See our How-To video step-by-step instructions.) But Equifax told us it will not opt you out.
Some companies are switching away.
Why One Employer Switched
“We partnered with Certree to provide that extra level of protection,” said Chantel Byrd, Vice President of Shared Services at Manpower Group -- the large staffing company.
Manpower used to share pay stubs with a big data company. But now, its workers’ info goes into those safe-deposit-box-style data vaults at Certree.
“Private data and just your P.I.I. is just so critical these days. So, that really was the primary underlying reason,” she explained.
Certree says it’s signed up 36,000 employers. Other start-ups, with different ideas to give workers pay data control, told us they’ve enrolled tens of thousands of other companies.
But millions more employers are still sharing pay stubs in bulk. Kochar says workers must speak up.
CEO to You: Tell Your CEO
“This is something they should and can be vocal about,” Kochar said. “Let your CEO know. Let your HR organization know.”