FTC breaks trend to confirm it is investigating Equifax breach

The FTC has just bucked its own trend, eschewing its tendency to avoid talking about on-going investigations so that it could talk about one investigation in particular: its own probe into the Equifax data breach. The breach is a severe one, potentially affecting approximately 143 million people throughout the US and select other locations.

Equifax is one of three major credit reporting companies in the US, and in recent days it disclosed a huge data breach that has affected a significant portion of the adult US population. Highly sensitive personal data including Social Security numbers, names, and addresses were accessed by hackers, and many people are vulnerable to identity theft and credit destruction as a result.

The FTC doesn't usually offer any comments on investigations that it has underway. However, given the severity of this data breach coupled with the number of people who keep reaching out to it, the FTC has decided to make an exception. In a statement emailed to Reuters, FTC spokesman Peter Kaplan said:

The FTC typically does not comment on ongoing investigations. However, in light of the intense public interest and the potential impact of this matter, I can confirm that FTC staff is investigating the Equifax data breach.

The data breach has highlighted some fundamental problems with how credit works in the US, namely that Social Security numbers have such an essential role in proving identity, and likewise that a few major companies have access to all of this data without consumers' consent. Whereas you can choose whether to give your SS# and other info to a bank or private company, the same isn't true for something like Equifax.

To no one's surprise, legal action against the company has already been initiated, something the company seemingly tried to get a jump on by slipping an arbitration-waiver into some of its fine print. As it stands, consumers are being advised to freeze their credit and possibly enroll in credit-monitoring and ID theft protection services.