President Barack Obama has made data security a priority in recent weeks.
Speaking at the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) in January, the President announced three pieces of legislation: the Student Digital Privacy Act (which would prohibit the sale of sensitive student data for non-education purposes), the codification of the Consumer Privacy Bill of Rights issued by the White House in 2012, and the Personal Data Notification & Protection Act.
Implicating businesses across the country, the Data Notification Act would establish nationwide, uniform data breach notification rules that would preempt the existing collection of 47 different state laws. Criminal penalties for hackers would also be strengthened and companies would be required to notify consumers of a breach within 30 days.
Broader than prior proposals of federal data breach notification bills, the Act defines “sensitive personally identifiable information” to include a range of data, like an individual’s first and last name or initial and last name in combination with two other items like a home address or telephone number, birthdate, or mother’s maiden name, a Social Security number by itself, and a user name or e-mail address in combination with a password or security question answer that would permit access to an online account.
The notice provisions allow companies to inform consumers of a breach by mail, telephone, and e-mail, under certain conditions. When more than 5,000 individuals are affected in a single state, media notice is required; if more than 5,000 total individuals (regardless of residence) are impacted, the company must also notify credit reporting agencies and the federal government.
Although the bill designates the FTC as the primary enforcement agency, with the authority to promulgate rules pursuant to the law, the measure also requires the agency to coordinate with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) where a data breach relates to “financial information or information associated with the provision of financial products or services.”
Some exemptions are included in the proposed bill. A business that does not access, store, or use covered data for more than 10,000 individuals during a 12-month period is exempt from the individual notice requirements. Safe harbor is also provided for companies that conduct a “risk assessment” that determines the data breach did not result in – and will not result in – harm to affected individuals. The business must notify the FTC of its “risk assessment” results and affirmatively indicate its intent to invoke the safe harbor.
A few days after he presented the proposal, President Obama reiterated his intent to pass data security measures in his State of the Union address, sending a message that he is focused on cybersecurity and privacy in the coming legislative session. Recent high-profile cyberattacks and data breaches (think Sony and Target) have also led to support from lawmakers and consumers, giving the bill momentum, but the question of its passage remains uncertain.
Learn more about Personal Data Notification & Protection Act