Given that the headlines lately suggest you should be worrying about everything from sex abuse in Hollywood to the deadliest mass shooting in United States history to the state of American healthcare, you could be forgiven for forgetting about a major story that broke in September: the Equifax data breach. On Last Week Tonight, John Oliver brought us up to speed on the massive information leak and the company’s attempts to alleviate the damage—and made a case for why you should keep paying attention.
First, Oliver offers some basic information for “the first generation to routinely send pictures of [their] junk to each other over the internet” who may not realize why the breach is so serious. Equifax is one of the three major credit reporting agencies, which use a person’s financial data to tell landlords, lenders, and others whether that person can be relied on to make payments. The Equifax breach compromised the information of a whopping 145 million Americans, including names, birth dates, driver’s licenses, addresses, and even Social Security numbers. As Oliver explains, if you’re one of those affected, people can use that data to open credit cards, take out loans, or even claim tax refunds in your name.
This is a huge deal, and if the average day’s headline weren’t “Everything Batshit Bananas Again Today,” as Oliver puts it, then we’d probably still be constantly talking about the breach and the mess Equifax made of doing damage control, from waiting six weeks to inform the public about the breach to repeatedly tweeting out the link to a fake website instead of one created to help people find out whether they are among those affected by the breach. Last Week Tonight even proved that it’s still way too easy to trick people by making its own phony Equifax site, equifaxfraudprevention.com.
If all this makes you angry, well, it should. Too bad that anger won’t make much of a difference, because you’re not technically the customer, the way Equifax sees it. “They make most of their money selling our data to businesses, like banks,” explained Oliver. “So in their eyes, we’re not the consumer, we’re the product. To think of it in terms of KFC, we’re not the guy buying the 10-piece buckets. We’re the fucking chickens.”