WASHINGTON – House Republicans and Democrats on Tuesday grilled Equifax's former chief executive over the massive data hack of the personal information of 145 million Americans, calling the company's response inadequate.
Former Equifax CEO Richard Smith apologized for the compromise of such information as names, addresses, birth dates and Social Security numbers. Smith was the lone witness at the first of several Capitol Hill hearings this week. No current Equifax official testified.
“The criminal hack happened on my watch, and as CEO, I am ultimately responsible, and I take full responsibility,” Smith said. “I am here today to say to each and every person affected by this breach, I am truly and deeply sorry for what happened.”
Democrats favor legislation that they say would establish strong data security standards and prompt notification and relief for consumers when their information is hacked. But Republicans tamped down expectations for any congressional action as this year the GOP-led Congress has rolled back several Obama-era rules affecting businesses and the financial sector.
“Equifax deserves to be shamed in this hearing, but we should also ask what Congress has done, or failed to do, to stop data breaches from occurring,” said Rep. Jan Schakowsky, D-Ill.
Rep. Bob Latta, R-Ohio, the chairman of the subcommittee examining the breach, said there are already laws on the books that require companies to secure sensitive consumer data. He said hearings before four House and Senate panels this week should run their course before lawmakers make a decision about what to do next.
“The big thing we heard today is it was a very human error on their part” Latta said.