Sen. Leahy urges Congress to pass national data breach legislation

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) urged his colleagues to pass a national law telling companies when and how they must inform consumers their data has breached on Tuesday.

Leahy issued a statement in advance of Data Privacy Day on Saturday arguing that the need for a national data breach standard is greater than ever due to the recent string of high-profile attacks on e-commerce firms and government institutions.

"Even as the Internet and other rapidly advancing technologies spur economic growth and expand opportunity, there is growing uncertainty and unease about how Americans’ sensitive personal information is collected, shared and stored," Leahy said.

"After a record year of high profile data breaches in the private sector and throughout government, it is more important than ever that Congress step forward and enact meaningful data privacy legislation."

Leahy noted the Judiciary Committee reported his Personal Data Privacy and Security Act in September and has passed similar legislation three times. The bill would force e-commerce firms to take measures to protect consumers' data and create a single nationwide standard for breach notification.

Leahy also argued a data breach provision should be part of any comprehensive cybersecurity legislation, which the Senate is set to consider in the coming weeks.

He noted the White House included a data breach provision in its cybersecurity proposal and said he will work to include one in any cybersecurity bill that comes up for discussion.

"I will also continue the important work that the Judiciary Committee began last year to update the Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA), so that our digital privacy laws keep pace with changes in technology," Leahy added.

"Updating this law to reflect the realities of our time is essential to keeping us safe from cyber threats."

The House has also considered various data breach proposals, with a notable effort from Rep. Mary Bono Mack (R-Calif.) currently stuck in committee and awaiting movement from House Energy and Commerce Chairman Fred Upton (R-Mich.).