Lawmakers grill former Equifax CEO

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WASHINGTON (Gray DC) - The private data of nearly 145-million Americans may be exposed after a hack at one of the country’s three main credit reporting agencies. Lawmakers spent the day gilling the company’s former leader but don’t have their own answer to the problem yet.

The former C.E.O. of Equifax, Rick Smith, sat in the hot seat Tuesday morning as lawmakers peppered him with questions and criticisms. “I am here today to say to each and every person affected by this breach, I am truly and deeply sorry for what happened,” Smith said in his opening statement.

Smith said human and technological errors allowed the breach to occur, and he admitted the company made mistakes in its delayed response. He pledged to make it right, but would not commit to covering the costs of those hurt by the breach

Rep. Bob Latta (R-Ohio) said modern online existence is almost impossible to navigate without exposing your personal information. “If you think you’re safe, that’s probably when you’re not,” he said. But, Latta argues companies like Equifax must protect private details, like social security numbers.

The chairman of the Subcommittee on Digital Commerce and Consumer Protection isn’t ready to write a new law just yet though, while Congress and the F-B-I are still investigating. “It’s kind of tough to do something until you get the information,” he said, “if you don’t have the information, how can you make the right decisions?”

Some lawmakers – Democrats in particular -- have proposed new regulations. Consumer advocates said thoughtful discussion with all parties will lead to the best regulation.

Chris Lewis of Public Knowledge did not argue for precise language in any new regulation, but did suggest any new measure meet at least three criteria. Companies should be required to tell people when hacks happen, be held to security standards with penalties to back them up, and cover costs when its customers who pay.

“We’re all going to have to work together to make sure that consumers are protected across the board,” Lewis said, “this is just a new age, a new era where so much information is available across the board.”

Smith resigned from the company in the fallout from the hack, but he’ll still sit through tough questioning from Congress at least three more times this week.

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