How wide was the Equifax data breach?

143 million US consumers were caught up in the data breach. I keep seeing it portrayed as 44% of the US population. But, the US population includes children.

Initially, it seemed to me the better metric was 11 million more than all of 2016 IRS tax filers. The problems with this latter comparison? Lots of people who file taxes might not have a credit history and some with credit histories might not file taxes in a specific year. Which brings up taxes for a specific year comparing against people who had a credit history across many years is sketchy.

Other statistics give me headaches too.

  • The US Census’ latest 2016 estimate is that there were 325M (million) people in the country. The original 44% statistic is based on that.
  • The US Census’ latest 2016 estimate is that there were 249M adults in the country. That brings the percentage up to 57%.
  • The Bureau of Labor Statistics says in July 2017 when the hack occurred, there were 160M members of the civilian noninstitutionalized population. That excludes inmates and members of the armed forces most of whom probably have credit histories.

So, I took the BLS 160M and looked up the excluded populations.

  • It looks like there were about 1.5M in the prisons.
  • And there is about 1.4M active military.

Combining these, it looks like about 88% of people in the “potentially have worked population” were affected.

I feel good with the 88% number.

Really, though, everyone probably has had their SSN and birthday exposed.  If you have ever attended a K-12 school, post-secondary education, gotten insurance, gone to a doctor, engaged in any way with a financial institution, or given your SSN to a government entity, then you should assume that your personal information is ready to be exposed at any time. Nor should you rely on being told. The state of Georgia exposed every voter’s SSN to subscribers of the voting list by accident and notified no one because they felt the CDs being returned meant no one could have the info. (Because the subscribers could not have copied the files off the discs.)

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