Two Minute Tips

Business story ideas from the Equifax data breach

September 21, 2017

Share this article:

There's more than one story angle to pursue after the Equifax break-in. (Image by "kirahoffmann" via Pixabay, CC0 Creative Commons)
There's more than one story angle to pursue after the Equifax break-in. (Image by "kirahoffmann" via Pixabay, CC0 Creative Commons)

Data breaches are a growing fact of digital life. Every year, hundreds of millions of consumers—and hundreds of breaches—occur, according to a June 2017 report from the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia. But the Equifax breach raises the warning bell on digital security to a new level. In the coming weeks and months, business reporters can look into one or more of these stories.

Report on consumer-first initiatives

The “peace offering” extended to victims by Equifax of free credit monitoring for a year isn’t enough, say privacy activists. The credit bureaus have “shown themselves to be terrible stewards of very sensitive data, and are long overdue for more oversight from regulators and lawmakers,” security expert Brian Krebs, a former Washington Post reporter, told the Los Angeles Times. Develop a story focusing on the specific ways that credit reporting agencies need to change. Laws should allow companies to “only collect the bare minimum of data necessary,” Beth Givens of the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse in California told Vox.com. Other guidelines can address how long a company can store data and encryption requirements. Reporters can search for an expert in their area on kroll.com.

Investigate the state of consumer protection in your state

“Congress is not known for strong consumer protection laws,” says Givens. In 2015, a proposal by President Obama requiring companies to notify consumers 30 days after a breach was voted down. The tougher challenge lies at the state level. Only eight states specify notification between 30 and 90 days. In Georgia, where Equifax is based, no timeline is specified, and in Alabama and South Dakota, no law existed at all as of September 1, 2017. What regulations are on the books in your state? Find out by calling the attorney general’s office in your state.

Look into the emotional toll of data breaches

Data breaches have a profound effect on consumers, with 14 percent of victims suffering out-of-pocket losses, according to the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia. Survey readers in your circulation area who have been victims of a previous data breach. How did they recoup? What advice can they offer those who may be affected by the Equifax breach? Talk with a behavioral psychologist or call the National Center for Victims of Crime for some insight and information.

Discuss the fallout for online lenders

How will the Equifax hack affect how online lenders do business? Talk with firms such as LendingClub Corp. and Kabbage Inc. They are two of the more than 200 digital lenders in the U.S. often promising near-instant approval for personal or small-business loans online or through a mobile app. Quicken Loans Inc.’s Rocket Mortgage, which relies on a consumer’s credit report when evaluating a home loan, is another source. How will they check personal information going forward? Unlike traditional lenders, which lend to people they already know or who come into a branch for an in-person meeting, “those checks could become less effective in weeding out someone putting in a loan application with a false identity,” says the Wall Street Journal.  


Resources for Reporters

• Beth Givens, executive director of Privacy Rights Clearinghouse, 619-298-3396.

• Maureen Ohlhausen, acting chair of the Federal Trade Commission. Contact the Office of Public Affairs, 202-326-2180.

• Brian Krebs of Krebs Security. Contact him at his website.

• Scott Sanborn, CEO of Lending Club, 888-376-6642.

More Like This...

Two Minute Tips

Sign up now.
Get one Tuesday.

Every Tuesday we send out a quick-read email with tips for business journalism.

Subscribers also get access to the Tip archive.

Get Two Minute Tips For Business Journalism Delivered To Your Email Every Tuesday

Two Minute Tips

Every Tuesday we send out a quick-read email with tips for business journalism. Sign up now and get one Tuesday.

Our New Look
The Reynolds Center for Business Journalism is starting 2023 with a new look that we hope better illustrates our core mission to provide accurate and authoritative resources about business journalism, in order to help both reporters and news consumers understand the importance of business news and to demystify the sometimes arcane topics it covers.
Businesses, markets, and economies move in cycles – ups and downs – which is why our new logo contains a “candlestick” chart representing increases as well as downturns, and serves as a reminder that volatility is an unavoidable attribute of modern life. But it’s also possible to prepare for volatility by being well informed, and informing the general public to help level the information playing field is the primary goal of business journalism. The Reynolds Center is committed to supporting that goal, which is why the candlestick pattern in our logo merges directly into the name of our founding sponsor, Donald W. Reynolds.
Our new logo comes with a shorter name. Business is borderless, and understanding the global links in supply chains, trade, and flows of funds and people is essential to make sense of our fast-paced, globalized world. So we’re dropping the word “National” from our name and will aim to provide content that is applicable to business news globally.
We hope you like the new look. Best wishes for 2023!