Stuff YOU Should Know

Posted by on Sep 21, 2017 in Stuff You Should Know


You may have heard of Equifax. It’s one of the three major consumer credit reporting agencies in the country. It has collected the information of more than 800 million individual consumers and 88 million businesses worldwide. And last week, it got hacked.

A security flaw in the Equifax system allowed hackers to gain access to the names, Social Security numbers, birth dates, addresses, and driver’s license numbers of 143 million Equifax customers. The breach has left nearly half of all Americans vulnerable to identity theft. Even worse, Equifax knew about the hack for over a month before it alerted its customers and shareholders. On Friday, Equifax announced that its chief information officer and chief security officer are retiring as a result of the criticism the company has faced.

Why is identity theft such a big deal? Because once your identity is stolen, thieves can open bank accounts and credit cards in your name. They can also take out loans they don’t pay back, which destroys your credit. This is especially a problem for younger people. If thieves ruin your credit rating, it makes it difficult or impossible for you to use credit to buy a car or house later on. Most older adults won’t be affected as much, because many of them already have these things. For both young and older adults, experts recommend temporarily freezing your credit if you think your identity has been stolen. And as always, keep a close eye on your bank accounts and credit card statements.

Dig Deeper The government offers a free resource for recovering from identity theft at Using this Web site, make a list of at least five warning signs that your identity has been stolen.

Google Faces Discrimination Charges

Google has long been considered a great places to work because of its job perks and generous pay. However, the company is now coming under fire for paying its female employees less than its male employees.

Three female former employees have filed a lawsuit against Google for discriminating against female workers by paying them less than men who do the same or similar jobs. The company is also under investigation by the U.S. Labor Department for the same reason. The Labor Department has found that women are paid less than men at most job levels within the company, and that the higher women climb up the corporate ladder, the greater the difference between what a woman makes and what a man makes. Bonuses are also higher for male employees than for female, and women are not promoted with the same frequency as men. Furthermore, women are less likely to receive higher-paying engineering jobs within the company.

Click on the image below to launch an Understanding Economics video by McGraw-Hill Education about the history of pay inequality in the United States.

screen shot of gender-based pay inequality video

Credit: McGraw-Hill Education

Google has denied the claim and says that it doesn’t take into account important factors such as job performance, and what cities employees are based in. According to Google, once these factors are taken into consideration, female employees make 99.7 cents for every dollar a man makes. But the company didn’t explain how it reached that conclusion.

In its annual diversity report, Google revealed that although women make up 31 percent of the company’s overall work force, they hold only 20 percent of its higher-paid technical positions.

Dig Deeper On average, in the United States, women earn 21 percent less than men who do the same job. But this number varies from state to state. Based on the following chart, how much less do women make than men where you live?

Oil Spill Threatens Greek Beaches

Early last Sunday morning, a 45-year-old oil tanker called the Agia Zoni II sank near Salamis Island, Greece. The tanker was carrying more than 2,500 metric tons of fuel oil and marine gas oil when it sank. Since then, the leak has spread to the coast known as the Athens Riviera, which contains some of the most beautiful beaches in Greece. However, authorities were slow to tackle the mess. Local residents complained that they heard nothing about the spill until only hours before it reached their beaches.

The spill, which was originally thought to be contained to the area immediately surrounding the wreck, has now been labeled by many ecologists as an environmental disaster. So far, private antipollution vessels have cleaned up more than 180 metric tons of fuel from the beaches of Glyfada, a beach community south of Athens. Twenty-eight metric tons of fuel were removed from one beach alone.

The Greek merchant marine minister, Panagiotis Kouroumplis, has downplayed the significance of the spill, saying that it will all be cleaned up and forgotten in a few days. Authorities have also released contradicting statements about whether or not the vessel is still leaking, causing further frustration for residents. Experts say that cleanup efforts could take as long as four months to complete, though the environmental impact will likely be felt for years. The event has also raised questions about Greece’s ability to deal with oil and gas in the future.

Dig Deeper The Agia Zoni II sank near Salamis Island. Glyfada, south of Athens, was the area hardest hit by the spill. Using internet resources, locate a map of the area. How far did the oil spill travel to reach Glyfada? What other areas are included in this range and might be threatened as well?

Online Ads Raise Questions

Last week, both Google and Facebook came under fire for allowing people to purchase ads targeting people who are in favor of racism and hate speech. On Facebook, it’s possible to aim your ad at audiences that are targeted by offensive and racist descriptions. And on Google, ads are sold which may be targeted with the use of racist keywords.

ProPublica, a nonprofit news site, had its reporters test Facebook’s ad algorithms. The reporters paid $30 to create ads that specifically targeted anti-Semitic audiences. Facebook approved the ads within fifteen minutes. BuzzFeed did the same thing with Google, by entering offensive search terms. Google allowed the purchase of ads based on some of these terms.

Both companies have agreed to change their ad platforms to prevent this from happening in the future. However, this isn’t the first time that these ads have caused problems or come under scrutiny. Last year, ProPublica found that Facebook allowed people to exclude certain races from housing and employment ads, which is against the law. And last week, Facebook admitted that it had unknowingly sold $100,000 in ads to a company linked to Russia during the 2016 presidential campaign. The ads dealt with politically-controversial topics, such as gay rights and gun control. These ads were meant to further divide the American public. The fact that these problems keep coming up calls into question whether or not Facebook and Google have enough control over their own ad-making platforms.

What Do You Think? Have you ever been targeted for an online ad based on your race, gender, interests, or previous online purchases? Do you think advertising companies should be allowed to target customers this way? Why or why not?