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As Equifax Amassed Ever More Data, Safety Was a Sales Pitch

By STACY COWLEY and TARA SIEGEL BERNARDSEPT. 23, 2017

Continue reading the main story Share This Page Continue reading the main story Photo The Equifax offices in Atlanta. In recent years, the company has released dozens of new products each year and greatly increased its revenue. Credit Kevin D. Liles for The New York Times

Equifax’s chief executive had a simple strategy when he joined more than a decade ago: Gather as much personal data as possible and find new ways to sell it.

The company was making good money compiling credit reports on Americans. But Wall Street wanted stronger growth.

The chief executive, Richard F. Smith, delivered, releasing dozens of new products each year and doubling revenue. The company built algorithms and started scrubbing social media to assess consumers. In a big data collection coup, Equifax persuaded more than 7,000 employers to hand over salary details for an income verification system that now encompasses nearly half of American workers.

As part of its pitch to clients, the company promised to safeguard information. It even sold products to help companies hit by cyberattacks protect their customers.

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“Data breaches are on the rise. Be prepared,” the company said in one pitch. “You’ll feel safer with Equifax.”

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