With the “Year of the Data Breach” finally behind us, it’s no surprise that consumers have become increasingly more concerned with the way their personal and financial information is protected. After a flurry of cyber-attacks at financial institutions, retailers, and healthcare and entertainment companies, hundreds of millions of American consumers have had their personal data—and their confidence—compromised.

Policymakers on Capitol Hill and business leaders around the country must work together to better fortify their networks and protect consumers trusted information.. Restoring consumer confidence requires a joint effort to strengthen our security systems and improve our data protection policies.


While Congress and the White House  work on resolutions that include both a data breach bill as well as the recent completion of a cybersecurity summit, there are steps that can and should be taken immediately—primarily the implementation of microchip equipped credit cards that also require a Personal Identification Number (PIN) to be entered upon each transaction.

It is for that reason that I am launching ProtectMyData, a consumer education campaign advocating the implementation of chip and PIN technology for credit and debit cards. As President of Consumer Policy Solutions, a firm centered on developing public policies addressing the interests of consumers and the marketplace, I have held a long-standing interest in increasing and improving consumer protections.

Our current payment method, which dates back to the 1970s, predominantly uses a magnetic stripe which houses our financial information, along with a signature for authentication. These days, thieves have learned how to exploit the weaknesses of magnetic stripe credit cards to run-up fraudulent transactions and steal from consumers’ accounts.

Chip and PIN-equipped cards, on the other hand, are embedded with encrypted microchips and require a unique four-digit code to be entered upon each point-of-sale transaction, eliminating the possibility of a thief forging a signature or cloning the information held on the magnetic stripe.

Consumers abroad in places like Europe, Australia, South America and Canada have long since abandoned the outdated stripe and signature model and have seen significant declines in credit card fraud. In the United Kingdom, for example, after chip and PIN technology was deployed, domestic fraud fell 34% and fraud losses from counterfeit cards fell by 63 percent.

The executive order issued by President Obama last October, applying chip and PIN technology to government credit cards and upgrading point-of-sale terminals to accept them at federal buildings, is a clear endorsement by security professionals and the Administration that chip and PIN should be the standard going forward.  And it is now time our nation’s leading banks and credit card companies adopt this standard as well.

Yet despite staggering evidence of chip and PIN’s clear benefits, card issuers and other financial institutions have decided to cut corners by replacing magnetic stripe cards with chip-and-signature cards without the PIN. Some contend that requiring a PIN for credit card transactions would unnecessarily burden consumers who may have difficulty remembering another passcode. But that argument does not stand up to even the faintest scrutiny.  Americans are more than capable of remembering a four-digit code, particularly in the name of guarding their personal finances.

American consumers should not be exposed to unnecessary risks posed by unsecure payment methods, such as those of chip and signature cards. I believe more must be done to expedite the rollout of chip and PIN equipped cards across the country.

I have launched ProtectMyData to better educate the public and lawmakers about the urgent need for this transition. The ProtectMyData campaign seeks to urge U.S. financial institutions, banks, and credit card issuers to equip each and every one of their credit and debit cards with chip and PIN technology, to finally provide consumers the security they deserve.

Over the coming weeks and months, the campaign will undertake an effort to bring much-needed attention to this critical issue. After all, our economic system is reliant on the reasonable expectation of consumers that their finances and personal information will be protected at all times.

Berlyn is president of Consumer Policy Solutions and director of the Consumer Awareness Project.