The three big credit reporting agencies—Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion—gather an enormous amount of personal data about consumers, compile their credit reports, and disseminate information to third parties such as credit issuers or employers. The FCRA, or Fair Credit Reporting Act, was enacted in 1970 to protect this credit information and regulate not only when the credit bureaus can disclose it, but also under what circumstances.
For example, credit bureaus are required under the FCRA to only release your credit information to third parties that have "permissible purpose", such as for the evaluation of an application for credit, insurance, employment, etc. Credit bureaus are also required to investigate disputed information and correct or delete any information that is found to be inaccurate or unverifiable. The FCRA is a robust piece of legislation that has evolved significantly over the past forty years. To find a complete text of the FCRA, visit the Federal Trade Commission's website.