A little over a week ago, we learned that hackers had stolen the personal information of 143 million Americans from Equifax, one of the three large credit-rating agencies. Then we found out that not only had Equifax experienced a massive data breach, but the company then waited six weeks to go public with this information. Hackers which had gained access to the names, Social Security numbers, addresses, birthdates, and driver’s license numbers had almost two months to run wild with the personal data of almost half of all Americans.
Also, remember that the Americans whose data was stolen are not clients or customers of the credit rating agency – the information was collected about each American from various sources and individuals and was compiled and stored in detailed files that can be sold to credit card companies and other marketers. Equifax has no reason to care about protecting our information or informing us of any data breach because we are their product, not their customers.
The amount of disregard for consumer security that was shown by Equifax gets even worse. We know that three Equifax executives dumped 1.8 million dollars of stocks in the company a few days after the breach was discovered, but the company claims the timing was coincidence and the executives were unaware of the hacking at the time of the sales. We also know that after Equifax discovered the data breach, the company put together a plan to further take advantage of their victims by providing a free year of credit monitoring services via TrustedID to those affected by the breach. It was discovered later that TrustedID would automatically begin billing consumers after the free year was up for a whopping $20 a month.
Additionally, by accepting this free year of credit monitoring through the hilariously-named TrustedID, consumers would be forfeiting their right to sue Equifax and would require the victim to go to arbitration instead, which is a notoriously biased process which usually places consumers and victims at a disadvantage. Agreeing to arbitration also prevents the consumer from filing or joining a class action lawsuit regarding the hack, letting Equifax off the hook for their negligence.
How can a corporation such as Equifax leave consumers vulnerable to hackers for six weeks before disclosing that the hack occurred? There are very few regulations when it comes to the three large credit reporting agencies. Equifax, Experian, and Trans Union all spend millions of dollars every year lobbying members of Congress to prevent the creation of oversight regulations for the credit bureaus. Consumer advocates have pushed for stronger privacy rules for the credit rating agencies since the 1960s, but Congress chose to listen to the money flowing into their campaigns from lobbyists and neglected to pass any regulations that would require the credit bureaus to immediately notify an individual when their information has been compromised.
It is clear that these large financial institutions and credit reporting agencies do not care about the well-being or safety of American citizens. Instead, these corporations are only concerned with maximizing profits using any means necessary, regardless of who is harmed in the process. Americans need to wake up and demand that consumer protections be put in place to hold these institutions accountable to the American people, not a handful of executives within the company. It is time we give power back to the people.
By protecting Americans from corporate greed and recklessness, we can work towards making a better future for the people of West Michigan. You can help strengthen this campaign by making a contribution supporting Nick Schiller for Congress by clicking here, purchasing a shirt to show your support by clicking here, or you can sign up to volunteer for the campaign by clicking here.
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