After bringing the nation\u2019s first enforcement action against Equifax for its failure to protect the personal information of nearly three million Massachusetts residents, Attorney General Maura Healey announced updated legislation that will better protect consumers from data breaches. \n\nThe new legislation, An Act Removing Fees for Security Freezes and Disclosures of Consumer Credit Reports (SB 130/HB 134) will help consumers by eliminating fees and establishing a one-stop shop for placing credit freezes, mandating encryption of personal information in credit reports, and requiring that companies obtain consent before accessing or using consumer credit reports and credit scores.\n\nThe bill \u2013 introduced today at the State House \u2013 is co-sponsored by Senator Barbara L\u2019Italien and State Representative Jennifer Benson. AG Healey\u2019s office assisted in drafting the updated language to provide additional protections for consumers affected by a breach. \n\n\u201cFor too long, protecting consumers has been an afterthought for Equifax and other credit reporting agencies,\u201d said AG Healey. \u201cThis bill will give Massachusetts residents control over their personal data and help fix a system that needed reform long before the Equifax breach. I am proud to join with Senator L\u2019Italien and Representative Benson as Massachusetts leads the charge for our country\u2019s consumers.\u201d\n\n\u201cI am proud to stand today in collaboration with the Attorney General and Rep. Jen Benson to discuss enhanced consumer protections for all residents of our Commonwealth,\u201d said Senator L\u2019Italien. \u201cWith the Equifax breach we learned how easy it is for our personal information to be compromised, and the urgency of ensuring additional protection for consumers and our credit and financial information.\u201d\n\n\u201cI welcome the Attorney General\u2019s support of this important legislation,\u201d said Representative Benson, Chair of the Joint Committee on State Administration and Regulatory Oversight. \u201cI filed this bill to protect victims of identity theft, and in collaboration with the Attorney General and Chairwoman L\u2019Italien, we\u2019ve made the language even stronger to provide further consumer protections.\u201d\n\n\u201cFor far too long, consumers have had too little control over their own personal information that is stored and sold by credit reporting agencies,\u201d said Chi Chi Wu, National Consumer Law Center staff attorney\u200b. \u200b \u201cI commend Attorney General Maura Healey for introducing this updated bill\u200b, which\u200b gives consumers a say in whether a business can access their credit report or score. The bill\u200b \u200balso responds to the Equifax data breach by making credit freezes free of charge.\u201d\n\n\u201cEquifax\u2019s massive security breach exposed that not only did they throw away the lock and lose the key to safeguarding our information, but when we asked them to secure it, with a credit freeze, they wanted to charge us and make a profit off of their extreme negligence,\u201d said Deirdre Cummings, Legislative Director with MASSPIRG. \u201cWe have a terrific opportunity and obligation to pass a strong reform bill, and we should do it now.\u201d\n\n\u201cAARP Massachusetts believes that consumers should not have to pay to freeze their credit, and urges Massachusetts lawmakers to enact this legislation to give residents of Massachusetts the power to control access to their credit report without cost,\u201d said Mike Festa, state director of AARP Massachusetts.\n\nThe updated legislation helps consumers in Massachusetts in a number of ways:\n\nConsent: Any company seeking to obtain or use a consumer\u2019s credit report or credit score will need the written consent of the consumer and must disclose the reason for seeking access to the information.\nCredit Freeze: The bill would allow consumers to place and lift a credit freeze on their files at any time, for free. Unlike credit monitoring (which alerts you after potential identity theft has already occurred), a credit freeze makes it harder for someone to open a new account in your name. The new legislation will require the credit reporting agencies to put in place a simple, one-stop shop for freezing and unfreezing your credit reports.\nCredit reports: The bill will require each credit reporting agency to provide extra access to free credit reports to consumers impacted by a breach. Under federal law, consumers only get access to one free credit report per year, but under the new legislation, affected consumers will be entitled to no less than three free copies from each agency after a data breach.\nCredit monitoring: If the breach occurs at a consumer reporting agency \u2013 like Equifax \u2013 the bill requires it to provide five years of free credit monitoring to affected consumers. \nEncryption: The bill will require that all agencies encrypt personal information contained in consumer credit reports to enhance the security, confidentiality and integrity of personal information.\nAccording to Equifax, the breach reported earlier this month potentially compromised the personal information of 143 million consumers nationwide, including nearly three million Massachusetts consumers. Following the breach, AG Healey launched an immediate investigation and filed a lawsuit last week against Equifax alleging that it did not maintain the appropriate safeguards to protect consumer data in violation of Massachusetts consumer protection and data privacy laws and regulations. The AG\u2019s Office also issued guidance for consumers in the wake of the data breach.\n\nEquifax is a consumer reporting agency that businesses rely on to make decisions about the credit worthiness of consumers, therefore affecting whether consumers can buy a house, acquire a loan, lease a vehicle, or even get a job. Consumers have little to no control over the information about them that Equifax acquires.\n\nAG Healey will testify before the Joint Committee on Consumer Protection and Professional Licensure tomorrow in support of the bill and ask the Committee to incorporate the additional consumer protections proposed today.