In 2017, nearly 148 million Americans had â€œsensitive personal informationâ€ stolen from Equifax servers in one of the largest data breaches in history. Information that was stolen included social security numbers, driver’s license numbers, addresses, dates of birth and more. In response to the data breach, millions of Americans began immediately purchasing identity theft protection services from private companies, one of the largest of which was LifeLock, Inc. In an attempt to capitalize on the business opportunity, Â LifeLock began running the following ad after news of the data breach broke:
A major credit bureau just experienced a breach potentially impacting 143 million people. Don’t wait to get identity theft protection.
The data breach and subsequent ad campaign was a great success for LikeLock.Â Â LifeLock’s Web traffic increased sixfoldÂ Â (Links to an external site.)Links to an external site.Â Â and enrollments in their identity theft plans increased 10 fold. “Most are paying the full price, rather than discounts,” an executive for the company said. “It’s a really incredible response from the market.”
What LifeLock didnâ€™t advertise, however, is that when you buy identity theft protection from LifeLock, you’re actually signing up (and paying) for credit monitoring services provided byÂ Â Equifax, the same company that put your identity at risk in the first place. Meaning, you are buying identity theft protection from the same company that lost your identity.
LifeLock is not alone, many other identity theft protection services also pay Equifax to handle the â€œback officeâ€ for their protection plans. Many estimates conclude that when the dust settles, Equifax will have made a generous profit from the data breach, due in large part to their relationships with identity theft providers such as LifeLock. LifeLock has responded to criticism by stating that they disclose their relationship with Equifax in theirÂ Â terms of serviceÂ Â (Links to an external site.)Links to an external site.Â document, which is a small-font 6,000-word document on its website wherein they list Equifax Consumer Services as one of their “service providers.”
Answer the following:
1. What ethical issues are presented by the Equifax and LifeLock relationship?
2. Do you feel companies like Equifax should be permitted to profit from their own negligence? Â What, if anything, would you do to prevent situations like the Equifax & LifeLock conflict?
Then, choose two of your peersâ€™ ethical issue(s) and present an opposing view of why that would not be considered an ethical issue.
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