policies as vice president of privacy and external affairs. Mr. Ford in June succeeded John Baker, a senior vice president who retired after 35 years with the Atlanta-based company. Although dealing with privacy issues was among Mr. Baker's responsibilities, it is a principal part of Mr. Ford's job, he said. His duties also include relations with government and with consumer groups. Mr. Ford, 51, was previously vice president of corporate public affairs. Equifax did not publicly announce Mr. Ford's new position, viewing it simply as an internal reshuffling, but indeed Mr. Ford's title reflects the company's greater focus on privacy. Equifax's consumer privacy initiatives were formerly part of a larger function under the office of public affairs, which included government, public and internal relations. Now Mr. Ford will focus exclusively on federal and state regulators, consumer advocates, and consumer protection agencies. He will not be responsible for public affairs. Equifax, like its competitors, TRW Inc. of Orange, Calif., and Trans Union Corp. of Chicago, is still attempting to dispel a negative perception of the credit bureau business. The three major credit bureaus were subjects of a four-year Federal Trade Commission investigation, which focused on how they collect and disseminate information about consumers. Subsequently, the credit bureaus began to develop privacy policies, appointing privacy ombudsmen, and reformed some of the business practices that were seen as invasive to consumers. Trans Union is in the process of developing a privacy policy. "Part of our goal is to earn the public's trust," said Mr. Ford. Mr. Ford's 14-year career in public relations includes a stint from 1983 to 1987 with the Defense Department, where he directed the advertising program for armed services recruiting, with an annual budget of $25 million. He joined Equifax in 1989 from Georgia Military College, where he was vice president for public relations. Mr. Ford has a master's degree in journalism from the University of South Carolina, and a master's in business from Long Island University. He said he sees Equifax's management of health care data and the use of credit reports for insurance underwriting purposes as the most pressing issues he faces. "We believe that credit reports are useful underwriting tools, but they should not be the only tool," he said. In the health care arena, Equifax has addressed concerns about the commingling of credit and health care information. For example, if a collection agency for a health care provider reports information to Equifax, the specific problem that the consumer was treated for may not appear on the report. "We mask key words like 'alcoholic' and 'psychiatric,'" explained Mr. Ford. To ensure the company's sensitivity to privacy concerns, Equifax hired an outside consultant, Alan F. Westin, publisher of the newsletter Privacy & American Business, to review all of its products and services.

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