Why the Equifax Breach Stings So Bad

Among the 2,000 or so enraged messages that I received after the most recent Equifax data breach, the wish that came up most often was that Richard F. Smith, the company’s chief executive, be pushed out the door.

But the messages also reflected something I had not seen before, not even after the scandals at Wells Fargo and Volkswagen, even though those companies committed similarly egregious offenses. It was a sense of helplessness, the recognition that we are at the mercy of an industry that makes money off our data, treats us with disdain and answers to no one.

.. “It’s going to dawn on people that we are defined by these descriptors, markers and measures, but we have no meaningful informational rights to them or over them,” Sarah Bloom Raskin, who served as deputy Treasury secretary during the Obama administration

.. The credit reporting industry begins with a sort of entrapment, said Amanda Steinberg, chief executive of DailyWorth, a financial website geared toward women,

.. If you want to do business with just about any financial services company, you must agree to allow it to report your payment history to the credit reporting agencies.

.. But there does not appear to be any way to step out of the system unless you can live a life completely free of the need for credit, mobile phones and many jobs (since employers often make a credit check a condition of employment).

.. Equifax persisted for days in charging many people for the privilege of freezing their credit files.

.. Richard Russell of the Bronx questioned whether Equifax might have an incentive to be casual about security so that it could turn around later and charge what amounted amounts to protection money. “Isn’t that what this credit freeze is essentially?” he asked in an email to me this week. “In many parts of the world, this would be labeled extortion.”

.. Equifax has not directly informed people who may have been affected by the breach. It could send them letters, but it has chosen not to so far.

.. Consider the revelation that the president of Equifax’s information solutions unit in the United States and its chief financial officer sold stock after the breach was discovered but before it was made public. If they knew about the break-in, they violated insider trading laws. The company says they did not know.

.. In what sort of company would Mr. Information Systems and Mr. Money not be in the loop on a problem like this? “That’s also horrifying,” said Cristi Page of San Diego. “They’re either unethical or they’re incompetent. Neither of those inspire much confidence.”