As we have chronicled over the past several months, congressional scrutiny of the Equifax data breach has ebbed and flowed with the headlines.
Lasting consumer protections have been hard to come by for various reasons. But one of the more head-scratching developments of late is a controversial draft bill floated by some lawmakers in the U.S. House of Representatives that would create a national standard on how data breaches are communicated to consumers.
Draft bill would hide data breaches for some companies
Now, you may be saying “Hooray!” or “This is great!” but the fine print, as is usually the case, is where the problems lie.
Not only would the bill exclude Equifax and other credit-reporting agencies, but as L.A. Times consumer columnist David Lazarus artfully highlights, “It would exempt all banks and financial institutions, and would require notification by retailers and other businesses” only in the event that these companies believe there’s “a reasonable risk that the breach of data security has resulted in identity theft, fraud or economic loss” to consumers.
That means that if the draft bill gains momentum, American consumers could be left with a largely toothless piece of legislation that would do little more than codify Washington’s paralysis when it comes to helping protect people’s personal info.
The bill, proposed by Reps. Blaine Luetkemeyer (R-Mo.) and Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.) was submitted to the House of Representatives in February. Since then, Luetkemeyer and other lawmakers have been reportedly meeting with industry groups to refine key parts of the bill.
Data breach legislation has taken on added importance after the massive Equifax hack in September 2017. The Atlanta-based company has revealed that as many as 148 million Americans have been exposed to potential identity fraud and theft after criminals were able to break into and exploit a web portal app.
As Congress was immediately moved to launch into action to aid consumers, including a push for free credit freezes, much of that momentum has dissipated. Now people are much more likely to get sterner safeguards on the state level.
Just recently, Florida passed a bill to make credit freezes free for many residents, according to the Palm Beach Post.
The treasure trove of info exposed by the breach includes people’s names, addresses, Social Security numbers, credit and debit card numbers and much more. Some consumers are filing suit, but many others are standing still.
As an opinion piece in The Hill aptly states, “People are overwhelmed to the point of inaction. The constant drumbeat of breaches has not instilled fear in people, but fatigue.”
That’s why money expert Clark Howard is advising consumers to protect themselves in a two-step process.