Washington, DC) – Today, ahead of a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on a recent spate of data breaches, U.S. Senators Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) and Ed Markey (D-Mass.) introduced thePersonal Data Protection and Breach Accountability Act, a bill that would help protect consumers' personal and financial information from hackers by taking a multi-pronged approach to combating the risks associated with data breaches. Already, a little more than a month into the new year, there have been at least 30 reported data breaches that have left the personal and financial information of over 99,000 consumers at risk.
Blumenthal said, "This bill will give consumers much stronger, industry-wide protections against massive thefts of private financial information by hackers and digital thieves. Stiffer enforcement with stringent penalties are vital to assure that retailers use state of the art safeguards. "
Markey said, "After recent breaches have put tens of millions of consumers at risk for identity theft and other fraud, the time for Congress to act is now. Disclosures by a range of companies underscore the urgent need for Congress to address the escalating threats to data security, which is why we are introducing the Personal Data Protection and Breach Accountability Act. This legislation packs a one-two punch: it deters preventable breaches and minimizes consumer harm from breaches that do occur. I thank Senator Blumenthal for his leadership, and I look forward to working with my colleagues to pass this legislation."
Large-scale data breaches of sensitive consumer information have become more frequent over the last decade. In fact, over 600 major data breaches occurred in 2013, including the recently disclosed data breaches at Target and Neiman Marcus. The Target data breach took place from November 27 to December 15 and left the personal and financial information of over 110 million consumers at risk making it the second largest data breach of any retailer in history. Affected Target consumers were notified on December 18, shortly after the store discovered the data breach. The Neiman Marcus data breach took place from July 16 to October 30 and left the personal and financial information of over 1.1 million consumers at risk. Affected consumers were notified on January 18, shortly after the store discovered the data breach. Both of these incidents illustrate the complexity of data breaches: The Target data breach was larger in scale, but the retailer discovered the problem and notified customers more quickly, whereas the Neiman Marcus data breach was smaller in scale, but it took much longer for the retailer to confirm the malware on its system.
The Personal Data Protection and Breach Accountability Act would reduce the likelihood that hackers can steal consumers' personal and financial information. Specifically, the bill would:
• Deter Preventable Breaches: In order to help prevent sensitive personal information from falling into the wrong hands, the bill creates a process for helping companies to establish appropriate security plans to safeguard sensitive consumer information, and holds them accountable for failing to comply with these plans;
• Minimize Consumer Harm: To allow consumers to take immediate action to protect themselves after a breach, the bill requires companies to promptly notify consumers after a breach has occurred. Additionally, companies are required to provide consumers with a number of remedies to help mitigate the risk of damage and help make them whole again.
• Promote Technical Information-Sharing: To help prevent future beaches, the bill facilitates better information-sharing between federal agencies, law enforcement, and the private sector to alert businesses of specific threats.