State Senate OKs bill to help victims of data breaches

For the Gazette
Published: 4/29/2018 9:18:06 PM

BOSTON — The Massachusetts Senate on Thursday voted 38-0 to approve a bill adding protections for consumers from data breaches at credit reporting agencies.

The legislation was introduced in the wake of the high-profile Equifax breach revealed last fall which is estimated to have compromised the personal information of as many as three million Massachusetts residents.

Equifax did not install an available security update to their software and then failed to inform consumers of the breach for five weeks, according to Rep. Randy Hunt, R-Sandwich, who was interviewed before Senate debate on the bill. Hunt also said companies were previously allowed to collect fees from consumers seeking to freeze their account because the company compromised their data.

The bill creates additional regulations in an effort to prevent future breaches and help consumers recover when their personal data has been compromised by a consumer reporting company.

“Consumers need protections for the sensitive financial data they entrust to companies like Equifax,” Sen. Eric Lesser, D-Longmeadow, whose district includes Belchertown and Granby, said in a statement. “They should not be held responsible financially or otherwise when a data breach leaves them vulnerable to identity theft. This is a particular concern for the elderly, who rely on a limited income and expect their financial information to be secure with credit agencies.”

Sen. Barbara L’Italien, D-Andover, said, “Data protection isn’t a particularly sexy issue, but it is a bread-and-butter issue. It truly helps every resident in every community across the commonwealth.

“We have no choice but to entrust the big three agencies with our most personal information, so if they are compromised, they owe it to us to help us recover,” she added.

The legislation would require that credit reporting agencies offer free credit monitoring services for at least five years to consumers whose personal information was exposed by a data breach at the agency. It also would make credit freezes free and require that consumers be notified and consent to their credit reports being pulled.

Additionally, anyone seeking access to a consumer report would have to disclose the purpose and obtain permission from the consumer.

Christine Lytwynec writes for the Gazette from the Boston University Statehouse Program.


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