Senators Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Mark Warner (D-Va.) introduced a bill Wednesday that would allow the United States government to penalize Equifax and its peers with large fines for major cyber attacks and return that money to affected Americans.
Two Democratic senators floated legislation Wednesday that would boost the Federal Trade Commission's authority over large credit reporting agencies, including by levying penalties for consumer data breaches like the massive one at Equifax that compromised the personal information of roughly half the US population.
The cybersecurity bill would impose strict financial penalties on credit reporting agencies hit by data breaches, require significantly higher recovery compensation for affected customers, and tasked with annually inspecting credit reporting agencies' cybersecurity infrastructures. "The penalties would double in cases where the credit reporting firm did not comply with federal data security standards or failed to notify officials of the breach in a timely manner".
If this policy had been in place during the Equifax hack in September 2017 that affected 145 million Americans, the credit-reporting agency would have paid an estimated $1.5 billion in fines. "It will ensure that credit bureaus protect your information as if you actually mattered to them and it will both punish them and compensate you when they fail to do so", said U.S. PIRG Consumer Program Director, Ed Mierzwinski.
"U.S. PIRG commends Senators Warren and Warner for the Data Breach Prevention and Compensation Act". Under the new data protection regulation, Equifax would likely have seen significant fines, due to the number of United Kingdom consumers affected.
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"This bill establishes much-needed protections for data security for the credit bureaus". We'll see how many of these bills will pass, if any proposed federal bills will pass in the future, and if any of these bills will have enough bite to truly protect consumers.
Warner called Equifax's massive breach "particularly egregious" during an appearance on MSNBC's "Morning Joe" immediately following their CNN spot.
Sen. Warner has been a leader in calling for better consumer protections from data theft.
"This bill will ensure that companies like Equifax - which gather vast amounts of information on American consumers, often without their knowledge - are taking appropriate steps to secure data that's central to Americans' identity management and access to credit". The bill text can be found here.