Recent news stated Equifax suffered a data breach where 143 million financial records were compromised. These are financial histories no citizen authorized to be collected; no citizen could opt out of; and no citizen willingly participated in creating. Yet, for the ineptitude of the company collecting this data, consumers may have their lives turned into a nightmare if their personal information is used illicitly.
The federal government allowed this intrusion into our financial affairs under the guise of being “reasonable for business.” But where is the concomitant responsibility? 1) With the sloppy company that should be driven out of business for careless and reckless disregard for what they were doing? 2) With government that allowed vital personal information (like Social Security numbers) to be used commercially? 3) With the public that permitted these atrocities to be imposed upon them?
Equifax learned of the data breach July 29 but withheld the information until Sept. 8, 41 days later. That’s 41 days for miscreants to sell the data to malcontents for fraudulent activities. That’s 41 days when consumers were exposed to potential ID thefts, ID thefts which are a time-consuming headache to resolve. That’s 41 days where consumers were purposely kept in the dark.
As ostensible baby boomers enter retirement their Social Security number is going to be more important than ever, yet the Social Security Administration rarely replaces these important identification numbers.
This chaos could have been avoided by exercising responsible security. Consumers should inundate Congress with these demands:
1. All affected Social Security numbers should be changed.
2. Equifax should be fined heavily with the monies held “outside” the federal budget to help those whose credit has been negatively impacted.
3. Those who made the callous decisions leading up to this fiasco should face criminal prosecution.
4. Consumers should demand Social Security numbers be prohibited from financial use and restricted to the use they were intended, retirement.
5. Congress should mandate that consumers “opt in” to any personal-data collection and that companies be prohibited from clandestinely collecting individual information.
6. Congress must decree any company suffering a data breach to alert the public “immediately” not days (months) later.
The community deserves better treatment.