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Equifax seems to have suffered very little in the wake of its massive 2017 data breach, which compromised the personal data of 143 million people. While many simply checked if there data was included in the breach and angrily went on there way, one Vermont librarian decided to take action—she sued Equifax, and won.
Unfortunately, the victory was more symbolic than a deep-pocketed punishment that Equifax would feel to the core, but a victory is a victory nonetheless, and it could inspire others to follow suit.
Jessamyn West, a 49-year-old librarian, sued Equifax in small claims court for the undue burden it put on herself and her family. West’s mother died in July, and she was in the process of settling her finances. The breach “added to the work of sorting out her mom’s finances while trying to respond to having the entire family’s credit files potentially exposed to hackers and identity thieves,” according to Krebs on Security.
West sued for $5,000 in damages, but the judge ruled to only award her $690—$600, plus $90 to cover court fees. The $600 sum was awarded in order to cover the cost of identity theft protection services for two years.
West’s goal wasn’t to make a large sum off of Equifax, which still reported $3.4 billion in revenue last year despite its enormous data breach, but rather to draw continued awareness about privacy and technology.
“This case was about having your own agency when companies don’t behave how they’re supposed to with our private information,” West said.
While West—and others’—sum from her case is small, if millions of others who suffered in the aftermath of the data breach decided to file claims, Equifax could finally feel the impact of its negligence.
Christina Bonnington is a tech reporter who specializes in consumer gadgets, apps, and the trends shaping the technology industry. Her work has also appeared in Gizmodo, Wired, Refinery29, Slate, Bicycling, and Outside Magazine. She is based in the San Francisco Bay Area and has a background in electrical engineering.