Rep. Mary Bono Mack Releases Discussion Draft of SAFE Data Act

The following statement was issued by Rep. Mary Bono Mack today:

Calling a recent dramatic increase in cyber attacks “a threat to the future of electronic commerce,” Congresswoman Mary Bono Mack (CA-45), Chairman of the House Subcommittee on Commerce, Manufacturing and Trade, today released a discussion draft of the Secure and Fortify Data Act (SAFE Data Act), which establishes uniform national standards for data security and data breach notification.

“With nearly 1.5 billion credit cards now in use in the United States – and more and more Americans banking and shopping online – sophisticated hackers and cyber thieves have a treasure chest of opportunities to ‘get rich quick’.  The SAFE Data Act will provide American consumers with better safeguards in the future,” Congresswoman Bono Mack said in releasing the discussion draft of her legislation.

The Subcommittee on Commerce, Manufacturing and Trade will hold a legislative hearing on the much-anticipated draft on Wednesday (June 15) at 10 am in 2322 Rayburn House Office Building.

Scheduled to testify are the Honorable Edith Ramirez, Commissioner, Federal Trade Commission; Jason Goldman, Telecommunications and e-Commerce Counsel, U.S. Chamber of Commerce; Robert Holleyman, President and CEO, Business Software Alliance; Stuart Pratt, President and CEO, Consumer Data Industry Association; and Marc Rotenberg, Executive Director, Electronic Privacy Information Center.

Congresswoman Bono Mack’s efforts build on legislation passed by the House in 2009 but not acted upon in the Senate.   Most importantly, it reflects the changing landscape of data breaches and data security since that time.  It also encompasses many of the lessons learned in the aftermath of massive data breaches at Sony, Epsilon and Citigroup, which put more than 100 million consumer accounts at risk.

“You shouldn’t have to cross your fingers and whisper a prayer when you type in a credit card number on your computer and hit ‘enter.’  E-commerce is a vital and growing part of our economy.  We should take steps to embrace and protect it – and that starts with robust cyber security,” Bono Mack continued.  “Most importantly, consumers have a right to know when their personal information has been compromised, and companies and other organizations have an overriding responsibility to promptly alert them.”

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) estimates that nearly 9 million Americans fall victim to identity theft every year, costing consumers and businesses billions of dollars annually – and those numbers are growing steadily and alarmingly.   Just as troubling, Congresswoman Bono Mack says the frequency and scope of these breaches is “causing incalculable damage to consumer confidence when it comes to shopping and banking online.”

A key feature of the SAFE Data Act requires notification to the FTC and consumers within 48 hours of the time that a breach has been secured and scope of the breach assessed.  The FTC would also be given the authority to levy civil penalties if companies or entities fail to respond in a timely and responsible manner.  Non-profit organizations such as universities and charities would be required to comply with the legislation.

Additionally, the SAFE Data Act grants the FTC the ability to expand the definition of “personally identifiable information” so long as this new data poses a reasonable risk of identity theft or would otherwise “result in unlawful conduct.”

Following several recent hearings examining this growing problem, Congresswoman Bono Mack says it’s time for Congress to take action.

“These eye-popping data breaches only reinforce my long held belief that much more needs to be done to protect sensitive consumer information.  Americans need additional safeguards to prevent identity theft, and the SAFE Data Act will help to accomplish this goal.”

The text of the discussion draft can be viewed by clicking here.

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