Lawmakers offer bipartisan data security bill

Two House members on Wednesday reintroduced a bill requiring companies to meet certain data security standards when handling customers’ personal information.

It’s the latest effort in a years-long campaign to get a federal data breach bill passed.

{mosads}The measure, from Reps. Joe Barton (R-Texas) and Bobby Rush (D-Ill.), would deputize the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to set nationwide data security standards for companies handling sensitive data, such as full names, Social Security numbers, ID information and credit card information.

If this information was exposed by hackers, companies would have to notify the customers and the FTC. They also could face civil penalties of up to $5 million if they hadn’t adhered to the commission’s security standards.

Versions of the bill — known as Data Accountability and Trust Act (DATA) — have been introduced in the House several times, and a measure was approved in 2009.

But no versions of the bill have ever become law, and in 2014, efforts to approve a data security bill went nowhere.

Proponents are more hopeful this year after a string of high-profile cyberattacks on major companies like Target, Home Depot, JPMorgan and most recently Sony Pictures have raised awareness of the issue, putting pressure on Congress to act.

On Tuesday, The House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Commerce, Manufacturing and Trade held 2015’s first hearing on data breaches. There was general bipartisan consensus that Congress can move on a federal data breach bill this year.

Rush sits on the subcommittee, and Barton is a former chairman of the full House Energy and Commerce Committee.

Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) recently introduced his own data breach bill, the Data Security and Breach Notification Act, which contains many of the same requirements as the DATA measure. Both efforts mirror a recent White House legislative proposal on the issue.

Rush and Barton will hold a public briefing on Feb. 6 to further discuss their efforts.

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