Opinion piece by George Chidi
After losing half of America’s personal data last September, Equifax’ corporate leaders should be broke. And Equifax itself–a staple of Atlanta’s business community–should die. In a just world, it would be junked for parts like a ’99 Chevy Lumina with a blown head gasket.
(That’s my mom’s car. She’ll hear offers.)
Alas. In the cartoon world alternative reality we seem to live in instead, a month later the government gave Equifax a $7.5 million contract to give the IRS personal identity verification services. They managed to keep that contract until Equifax got hacked again in November. Congress then stripped a rule that would have made it easier to launch class-action lawsuits against Equifax. And now, the head of Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has decided a full-scale probe of Equifax and its business operations is “unnecessary.”
I can’t believe we’re not raving mad about this.
Equifax reported earnings on March 1. They had about $840 million dollars in revenue in the last three months. The hack cost them some loose change. They’ll spend about $80 million upgrading their computer systems. But it hasn’t impacted their revenue much. They’re still making money.
And that’s because their clients aren’t the millions of Americans – you – who got screwed. Their clients are other corporations. And those corporations, by and large, don’t care about you. (They just care about your credit score.)
You can’t boycott Equifax. Heck, you can’t even get them to erase your data. It’s against federal law.
But maybe Georgia can help.
Did you know when a financial services firm based in New York does something stupid, the State Attorney General there can take a crack at them for violating New York's securities laws? New York state laws matter a lot to Wall Street. It’s a center of finance precisely because both federal and state laws assure everyone that financial transactions there have rules that can be enforced.
Well, Equifax is a Georgia corporation. Its leadership lives here. And Georgia is becoming a hub in the financial technology (FinTech) sector. Seventy percent of all credit and debit card payments made in anywhere in the world clear through Atlanta.
Georgia law should matter too.
It should be a crime for a FinTech firm here to leave a server unpatched when it has sensitive personal information on it. The directors of a company should be personally liable for that kind of negligence; it should pierce the corporate veil of immunity. If we’re going to keep our position as the payment processing capital of the world, Georgia should take data security–and consumer protection–seriously.
So let’s finally show our outrage, yell at our lawmakers, and if you haven’t done so already, you should probably freeze your credit too.
DISCLAIMER: This segment represents the views of the commentator and not necessarily those of FOX 5 Atlanta.