Public shaming likely but GOP wary of new laws after Equifax
WASHINGTON (AP) — Prospects are good for a public shaming in the Equifax data breach, but it’s unlikely Congress will institute sweeping new regulations after hackers accessed the personal information of an estimated 143 million Americans.
Since early this year, President Donald Trump and the Republican-led Congress have strived to curb government’s influence on businesses, arguing that regulations stifle economic growth. Lawmakers have repealed more than a dozen Obama-era rules and the House voted in June to roll back much of Dodd-Frank, the landmark banking law created after the 2008 economic crisis that was designed to prevent future meltdowns.
Several bills unveiled after Equifax are so far missing a key ingredient for success: Republican co-sponsors.
And most important, there is history. Despite numerous high-profile security breaches over the past decade at companies such as Target, Yahoo, Neiman Marcus and Home Depot, legislation that would toughen standards for storing customer data has failed to gain the necessary traction.
Jessica Rich, a vice president at Consumer Reports, said she has questioned over the years what event it would take for lawmakers to impose tougher data security regulations.
“I’m hoping this is the final wake-up call for Congress,” Rich said.
Consumer advocacy groups seek legislation that would enhance the standards for companies that store consumer data and require prompt notification to affected Americans when breaches do occur. They also seek tough civil penalties for those who break the law. But, so far, Congress has opted to let states handle the issue.
Business groups are also worried that federal regulation will stifle innovation.
“When it comes to security, attempts to regulate today will become outdated tomorrow,” said a new report from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
Senate and House Republicans say they are in fact-gathering mode before moving on any legislation. Separate hearings are scheduled the first week in October, with Equifax Chairman and CEO Richard Smith slated to testify — and likely to get a public thrashing from lawmakers.