Anti-hacking advocate lands key House panel

An advocate of laws to protect consumers from corporate and government data breaches will soon lead a House subcommittee vital to getting those laws passed.

Rep. Michael BurgessMichael Clifton BurgessOVERNIGHT ENERGY: Supreme Court rules that pipeline can seize land from New Jersey | Study: EPA underestimated methane emissions from oil and gas development | Kevin McCarthy sets up task forces on climate, other issues Texas Republicans condemn state Democrats for response to official calling Scott an 'Oreo' Americans have decided to give professionals a chance MORE (R-Texas) on Tuesday revealed he will serve as chairman of the House Commerce subcommittee on trade. He’s replacing Rep. Lee Terry (R-Neb.), one of the few Republicans to lose a reelection bid this cycle.

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Terry was seen as one of the GOP’s top champions for a law that would set federal rules on when a company must notify consumers about a hack and what data security measures companies must maintain. 

Supporters of the law argue such a bill would bring clarity to companies trying to navigate 47 different state-level standards for notifying customers following a breach. They also believe minimum security guidelines would protect customer data from cyberattacks.

Opponents are worried such a law could give regulators such as the Federal Trade Commission too much power over the private sector.

Under Terry’s direction this Congress, the subcommittee held a hearing following data breaches at Target and Neiman Marcus in late 2013. Terry later spent months on a data breach bill that never came to fruition.

In 2008 and 2009, Burgess expressed strong conviction that Congress must pass such a law.

“The safety of millions of American is put at risk because of the potential of unknown risk within the nation’s data network,” he said after pushing for a bill in 2009.

“It’s time Congress got serious about enacting meaningful legislation that would put into place needed safeguards and protections to ensure cybersecurity for our nation’s information infrastructure," he added.

He later took to the House floor to press the issue.

“We must make this a priority,” he said. The vast majority of breaches “are considered avoidable if reasonable controls had been in place.”

More recently, Burgess spoke about data breaches after supporting a 2014 bill that would require the Department of Health and Human Services to notify individuals if their personal information was compromised the ObamaCare website.

“There must be actual laws in place to make sure certain breaches are reported,” he said.