Senate Dems unveil new data security legislation

Four Senate Democrats are introducing a new bill that would set federal data security standards and require customers be notified after a business is hacked.

The legislation would seek to prevent data breaches like those that occurred at Target and Neiman Marcus in recent months and ensure that shoppers know if their data may have been stolen.

“The recent string of massive data breaches proves companies need to do more to protect their customers,” Senate Commerce Committee Chairman Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) said in a statement.

“They should be fighting back against hackers who will do whatever it takes to exploit troves of consumer information. Our bill gives consumers the peace of mind that companies are doing everything they can to protect and secure their personal information from criminals.”

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Democratic Sens. Mark Pryor (Ark.), Bill Nelson (Fla.) and Dianne Feinstein (Calif.) are also pushing the legislation.

Under the Data Security and Breach Notification Act, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) would issue security standards for businesses that hold people’s personal and financial data. If those companies are hacked, they would need to notify affected customers so they can take preventive steps on their own. 

Businesses would also be given incentives to adopt new technologies to make customers’ data unreadable or unusable if stolen.

“For more than a decade, I have worked to pass data breach legislation,” said Feinstein, the chairwoman of the Senate Intelligence Committee. “The breaches are getting more frequent, and members of Congress — of both parties and across different congressional committees — must come together to pass this common-sense plan to protect the American consumer.”

As many as 110 million people may have had their personal or financial data stolen in a breach at Target that occurred over the holiday shopping season. Similar hacks at Neiman Marcus and the craft store Michaels have heightened concerns about the security of shoppers’ information.

Next week, three different committees on Capitol Hill will hold hearings on data breaches with top officials from Target, Neiman Marcus and the FTC.