The U.S government took another step toward improving nation-wide data protection practice this week, as the Senate Judiciary Committee approved new legislation designed to guard against cyber attacks.
The Personal Data Privacy and Security Act of 2011 was approved in a 10-to-8 vote split along party lines. All Democrats voted to pass the measure, sponsored by Senator Patrick Leahy, while all Republicans voted against it, asserting that the bill was too overreaching and would be a burden on businesses.
The legislation aims to establish data protection measures pertaining to the country’s power grids and financial networks. Additionally, the bill would create a national standard for data breach notifications.
This is a move that has seen bipartisan support from Congress and the White House. Creating a single data breach notification framework would effectively consolidate the patchwork of standards currently used by the states and Washington, D.C. As a result, businesses that suffer breaches – particularly those that cross state lines – would have a clearly defined call to action.
If signed into law, the bill would also establish penalties for businesses that fail to report data breaches to the proper authorities. Additionally, cybercriminals would face harsher consequences for actions that harm the nation’s IT infrastructure.
“During the last several months, I have consulted closely with the Obama administration, industry representatives, privacy and consumer advocates and Republican senators to develop a consensus bill that incorporates the administration’s proposals to improve cybersecurity,” Leahy said in a statement on his website.
The Personal Data Privacy and Security Act isn’t the only cybersecurity bill making its way through Congress at the moment. Other lawmakers, including Senator Richard Blumenthal, Representative Mary Bono Mack and others, have introduced their own bills aimed at thwarting cyber attacks and protecting consumer data. A national data breach notification standard seems to be a common theme among the majority of these proposals.
The need for such measures is apparent. Blumenthal estimates that nearly 23 million data breaches involving personally identifiable information have already occurred in 2011. But, despite the number of measures in Congress at the moment, progress toward offsetting these attacks has been slow-going.
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