Reuters and other news outlets are reporting that Representative Mary Bono Mack has circulated draft legislation in response to the steady stream of data breaches that have occurred this year. According to the report, Senate Majority leader Harry Reid also has asked four Senate committees to pull together a comprehensive cybersecurity bill, hoping it will be brought to the floor by late summer. After years of failed attempts at data breach legislation, the federal government could be poised to enact broadly applicable requirements for safeguarding data and responding to data breaches.
Some key provisions of the draft legislation would require covered entities (basically, any person engaged in interstate commerce) to:
- establish and implement policies and procedures to protect personal information (defined in a manner similar to most current state breach notification laws) to include, without limitation, designating a point person to manage information security, and having a process for identifying and assessing foreseeable vulnerabilities;
- erase personal data that is no longer needed and otherwise take steps to minimize the amount of personal information maintained;
- notify law enforcement within 48 hours of a data breach, and if data could be used to steal a customer’s identity, notify the Federal Trade Commission within 48 hours and begin contacting the affected persons; and
- provide 2 years of credit reporting services or credit monitoring services to individuals affected by a covered data breach.
The law would be enforceable by state attorneys general and the Federal Trade Commission with maximum penalties running into the millions of dollars. The law would generally preempt similar state laws, but would not permit private lawsuits.
Of course, companies should not be waiting to see if any action is taken at the federal level. There are a number of states with similar laws already on the books. In addition, exposure from a data breach, particularly when there were no safeguards in place to prevent the breach, should be sufficient motivation to take steps to safeguard personal data.