Legislation mandates data brokers like Equifax develop comprehensive data security programs and requires them to provide notice in the case of breaches


Washington (September 14, 2017) – Senators Edward J. Markey (D-Mass,), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) and Al Franken (D-Minn.) introduced legislation today to require accountability and transparency for data brokers like Equifax who are collecting and selling personal and sensitive information about consumers. The Data Broker Accountability and Transparency Act allows consumers to access and correct their information to help ensure maximum accuracy. The legislation also provides consumers with the right to stop data brokers from using, sharing, or selling their personal information for marketing purposes. The bill additionally requires data brokers to develop comprehensive privacy and data security programs and to provide reasonable notice in the case of breaches. The legislation empowers the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to enforce the law and promulgate rules within one year, including rules necessary to establish a centralized website for consumers to view a list of covered data brokers and information regarding consumer rights.  Equifax’s business extends far beyond its role as one of the big three credit reporting agencies.  Equifax also serves as a data broker, selling data profiles on consumers to various industries.  


“As we have recently witnessed with the Equifax breach, data brokers can play fast and loose with Americans’ most sensitive personal information,” said Senator Markey, a member of the Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee. “The era of data keepers has given way to an era of data reapers. We need to shed light on this ‘shadow’ industry of surreptitious data collection that has amassed covert dossiers on hundreds of millions of Americans. This bill requires data brokers to put in place comprehensive privacy and data security programs so that consumers in Massachusetts and throughout the country do not experience another Equifax. I thank Senators Blumenthal, Whitehouse and Franken for their partnership in protecting consumers and look forward to working with my colleagues to pass this important legislation.”


"The Equifax scandal is conclusive evidence that consumers need and deserve these protections-- without delay,” said Senator Blumenthal, a member of the Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee. “Third party data brokers profiting off the sale of personal consumer information is a shameless violation of the privacy and security of millions of Americans. In the face of ubiquitous online security threats – more pertinent than ever following the Equifax data breach – Congress must act to put the power back in the hands of consumers. This bill will guarantee Americans’ right to access files on their own personal information, correct any inaccuracies contained within, and guard against the unwanted sale of their data. The American people have a right to know if their personal data has been exploited or contains errors.”


“I believe Americans have a fundamental right to privacy, including the right to determine whether information about their personal lives should be available for sale to the highest bidder,” said Senator Franken, the top Democratic on the Judiciary Subcommittee on Privacy, Technology and the Law. “The unprecedented breach of Equifax’s databases, which compromised the sensitive data of 143 million Americans, underscores the need for transparency and accountability from the companies that trade on our privacy. This bill will help ensure consumers regain control of their personal information.”


“This urgently needed bill will help protect consumers from the massive data gathering tactics of companies as Equifax,” said Jeff Chester, Executive Director of the Center for Digital Democracy.  “Americans need to know what information is being compiled and used about them and their families, including what they do online.  Instead of operating as a stealth data broker that mines our information 24/7, they will now be held more accountable for what they do.”


“This bill would help consumers gain control over the daily invasion of their privacy that has become the business model for too many greedy companies.  It would give us the right to control who uses our personal information and for what purpose,” said John M. Simpson, Consumer Watchdog’s Privacy Project Director.


A copy of the legislation can be found HERE.