On April 16, 2010, Florida Attorney General Bill McCollum announced a settlement (pdf) with Certegy Check Services, Inc. over how the company secures consumer records. The Attorney General’s enforcement action stems from a massive data breach by a former Certegy employee who stole personal identification information from approximately 5.9 million consumer files.

According to the Attorney General’s press release, Certegy promptly notified the Attorney General and consumers of the data thefts, and cooperated with the Attorney General’s investigation. In addition to agreeing to maintain a comprehensive information security program, under the settlement, Certegy will contribute $125,000 to the Attorney General’s “Seniors vs. Crime Program” for educational, investigative and crime prevention programs for the benefit of senior citizens and the community. Further, it will pay $850,000 for the state’s investigative costs and attorney’s fees.

Massachusetts and some other states have specific statutory provisions requiring the safeguarding of personal information. No similar law exists in Florida. The Attorney General commenced its action against Certegy under the State’s deceptive and unfair trade practices statutes. Businesses with data security safeguards that can be viewed as subpar, therefore, cannot depend on the absence of specific state statutes to shield them from state action in case of a data breach or allegations that personal information is not being adequately safeguarded.

In addition to the nearly one million dollars Certegy will pay the State of Florida, the company agreed to

maintain a comprehensive “Information Security Program” that assesses internal and external risks to consumers’ personal information, implements safeguards to protect that consumer information, and regularly monitors and tests the effectiveness of those safeguards. Certegy and its related entities will also adhere to payment card industry data security standards as those standards continue to evolve.

Significantly, the settlement requires Certegy to conduct initial and annual assessments of its policies and procedure.

The settlement with the Attorney General followed a class action settlement in U.S. District Court in Tampa. Under that settlement, Certegy made certain monitoring services available to affected consumers, who also were able to seek reimbursement of certain out-of-pocket costs incurred or identity theft expenses.