In September of 2017, Equifax announced that they had fallen victim of a hacker, and that personally identifying information for 145 MILLION Americans was leaked in a massive breach perpetrated by a hacker. This is not something new or unexpected in the internet age; Target, Walmart, Valve, eBay, Home Depot, Xbox, Microsoft, PlayStation, many businesses that operate online suffer these penetrations, especially when they skimp on security.
The reasons that the Equifax breach was so bad were two-fold: firstly, it involved the breach of information including names, addresses, birth dates, and social security numbers (most of the things that you would need in order to be able to, say, open credit cards in someone else’s name), and secondly, the breach actually occurred in May through July, and Equifax sat on this information for months to protect their stock price.
In response, many in government are looking to do ‘something’, anything, to give the impression that they’re going to fix the issue. Leading the charge to seem like politicians have all the answers, Democrat Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren, who generally can’t be trusted to be honest about her ethnic background, had a legislative remedy.
Her remedy, the FREE Act, also known as the Freedom from Equifax Exploitation act, was ready literally a week after the public was first notified of the breach. While the act sounds nice, and the name is well-designed to appeal to those who were worried that Equifax lost control of their information, it does literally nothing to make sure that those who lost their data in the breach would be protected from the same thing happening again.
The ‘FREE’ Act does nothing to protect the data on Equifax, or to demand that Equifax and similar credit agencies do anything concerning cybersecurity. Rather, it focuses on credit freezes that credit companies can put on accounts. These are useful for allowing a user to prevent someone from opening a credit card in their name (after all, you cannot get a credit card without a credit check), and are commonly used by everyone from military service members who are deploying to those who suspect their personally identifying information (PII) has leaked to the internet.
Elizabeth Warren’s ‘solution’ to the issue of the Equifax breach, and how the company handled it is to demand that Equifax offer users free credit freezes/unfreezes.
Access to credit and credit ratings is an important linchpin in the American economy; Americas buy cars on credit, they buy houses on credit, some even buy phones and other devices on credit. Credit is essential to the United States economy as it currently exists. When customers freeze their credit, they can’t get any of these things until they un-freeze it.
Worse still, they can’t do various things that require a functioning credit card, such as signing up for Obamacare insurance on the state exchanges! Forcing Equifax or other credit businesses to provide this service for free is only going to serve to make running credit businesses more expensive, as well as providing little to no benefit.
From a cybersecurity standpoint, that makes no sense. Forcing an organization (Equifax) to offer MORE services to users, while also claiming that they are improperly protecting data for the limited services that they currently offer, is senseless. If the ‘FREE’ act is about making Equifax accountable for their failure to secure data, it is going about it the entirely wrong way.
Worse still, though, the idea that the government should be able to compel businesses to offer a service for free is a disturbing one. Just because a majority of Senators and Congresspersons come together in a vote to force a private business to offer a service free, does not mean that it is right, nor constitutional.
The government should NEVER have the power to tell a business that they MUST offer a product, a service, or a good to someone, and that they must do so in a way that will cost them money.
All of this is par for the course for Elizabeth Warren, who is as aggressive an advocate for big government as any Senator in recent history. While openly and constantly supporting the idea of an all-encompassing government, Warren also continues to make half a million dollars a year as Harvard professor teaching at most a handful of classes.
It’s almost as if she was so removed from the reality of running a business, the reality of any work outside of government or academia, that she believes that the government is the answer to everything, rather than that it is the cause of issues like America’s reliance on only three credit agencies.
Although Warren would never admit it, her ideas are not designed to help anyone. They’re designed to make her look like she’s doing something, in order to get votes in her next election.