BOSTON — On April 26, Senator Cindy Friedman (D-Arlington) voted with her Senate colleagues to pass a bill designed to protect the personal information of consumers in the case of data breaches, like the one seen at Equifax, and provide free credit freezes for all consumers.
The bill, S.2455, An Act relative to consumer protection from security breaches, was sponsored by Senator Barbara L’Italien (D-Andover), senate chair of the consumer protection committee, and crafted in collaboration with Representative Jennifer Benson (the House sponsor of the bill), Attorney General Maura Healey, the Massachusetts Public Interest Research Group (MASSPIRG), and AARP Massachusetts.
The bill helps all consumers protect their sensitive information before, during, and after a security breach in several ways: providing for free credit freezes for all consumers and creating an online “one stop shop” portal so that consumers can freeze & unfreeze their credit at all 3 main bureaus (Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion) in one place; providing 5 years of free credit monitoring for consumers whose information was part of a credit reporting agency data breach, and empowering consumers to know when and why their consumer reports are being pulled by requiring that any company attempting to pull a consumer’s report must first obtain consent.
“The Equifax data breach compromised the sensitive personal information of nearly 3 million Massachusetts residents last fall,” said Senator Friedman. “This legislation would fight consumer fraud, ensure transparency, and prevent identity theft by making it more difficult for companies to access and share credit information and making it easier for consumers to freeze or unfreeze their credit accounts.”
The legislation allows increased oversight from Attorney General Maura Healey’s office, which recently filed a lawsuit against Equifax. The Office of Consumer Affairs and Business Regulation will create a process requiring companies to certify that they maintain a consumer information security program as required by existing Massachusetts law.
“Equifax allowed the theft of our personal financial information, and then hid the breach from the public,” said Attorney General Maura Healey. “This bill would require companies like Equifax to pay for credit monitoring and makes it much easier for people to protect themselves from identify theft. I’m proud to partner with Senator L’Italien and Representative Benson to get this bill passed.”
Similar legislation filed by Representative Jennifer Benson (D-Lunenburg) has already passed in the House. The two bills will next be taken up in conference committee to resolve differences between the House and Senate versions.
To continue tracking the bill, visit www.malegislature.gov.