With Consumer Data Breaches on Rise, Congress Must Enact Tougher Laws, FTC Testifies

With Consumer Data Breaches on Rise, Congress Must Enact Tougher Laws, FTC TestifiesIf another massive payment card breach occurs, the Federal Trade Commission wants broader authority to seek civil penalties.
The FTC urged Congress Wednesday to give it the “authority to seek civil penalties to help deter unlawful conduct” and to even grant the agency rule-making authority over non-profit entities, which are not currently subject to FTC oversight.
In calling for legislation, the FTC recommended that Congress strengthen its existing authority over data security standards, and that it require companies “in appropriate circumstances” to provide notification to consumers affected by a data breach.
“The Commission is here today to reiterate its longstanding, bipartisan call for enactment of a strong federal data security and breach notification law,” FTC Chairwoman Edith Ramirez told the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation. “Never has the need for legislation been greater.”
About 100 million consumers who shopped at Target stores over the holidays were affected by a massive security breach that exposed credit and debit card data and other personal information.
“Data security is of critical importance to consumers,” Ramirez said. “If companies do not protect the personal information they collect and store, that information could fall into the wrong hands, resulting in fraud, identity theft, and other harm, along with a potential loss of consumer confidence in the marketplace.”
Where breaches occur, notifying consumers quickly helps them protect themselves from any harm, Ramirez said.
For example, in the case of a breach of Social Security numbers, notifying consumers will enable them to request that fraud alerts be placed in their credit files, obtain copies of their credit reports, scrutinize their monthly account statements, and take other steps to protect themselves, she said.
“With reports of data breaches on the rise, and with a significant number of Americans suffering from identity theft,Congress must act,” Ramirez testified.

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