Proposed Laws Target Consumer Data, Privacy

President Barack Obama announced three proposed laws aimed at protecting consumers against data and privacy breaches. “In the 21st century—in this dizzying age of technology and innovation—so much of the prosperity that we seek, so many of the jobs that we create, so much of the opportunity that’s available for the next generation depends on our digital economy,” said Obama January 12 as he addressed the Federal Trade Commission. “It depends on our ability to search and connect and shop and do business and create and discover and learn online, in cyberspace.”

One such law, Personal Data Notification, would establish a national standard for how companies respond to data breaches so citizens know when their information has been stolen or misused. This would replace a patchwork of state laws, he said. Under the new standard, companies would have to notify consumers of a breach within 30 days. “In addition, we’re proposing to close loopholes in the law so we can go after more criminals who steal and sell the identities of Americans—even when they do it overseas,” Obama said.

Additional legislation—a Consumer Privacy Bill of Rights—would give consumers the right to decide what personal data companies collect from them and how companies use that data; to know that personal information collected for one purpose can’t be used by a company for a different purpose; and to have their information stored securely by companies that are accountable for its use. The legislation, which he plans to introduce by month’s end, would provide basic baseline protections across industries.

“Working with many of you—from the private sector and advocacy groups—we’ve identified some basic principles to both protect personal privacy and ensure that industry can keep innovating,” Obama said.

He also proposed the Student Digital Privacy Act, which states data collected on students in the classroom should only be used for educational purposes—not to market to children. “Many states have proposed similar legislation,” Obama said. “We won’t wait for legislation, though. The Department of Education is going to offer new tools to help schools and teachers work with tech companies to protect the privacy of students.”

“The more we do to protect consumer information and privacy, the harder it is for hackers to damage our businesses and hurt our economy. Meanwhile, the more companies strengthen their cyber security, the harder it is for hackers to steal consumer information and hurt American families.”

- Diana Mota, NACM associate editor

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