Highlighting the U.S. government's continued interest in protecting consumer information in the digital age, Senate Richard Blumenthal recently announced plans to introduce legislation that strengthens data breach laws throughout the nation.
The Democrat from Connecticut, who serves on the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Privacy, Technology and the Law, joins a growing list of lawmakers looking to take on data security, including U.S. Representative Mary Bono Mack and senators John Rockefeller, Thomas Carper and Dianne Feinstein.
In a statement on his website, Blumenthal said he was working with data breach experts and community leaders to gauge what needs to be done to improve data protection practices in the United States. Though he did not offer many details as to what his legislative proposal might include, he did say it would take a "multi-pronged approach" to combat the cybersecurity threats facing businesses and consumers.
One measure that has been favored in previous proposals (and endorsed by the Obama administration) is the consolidation of the nearly 50 data breach notification laws currently used by the states and the District of Columbia. Blumenthal suggested he might follow suit, stating that federal oversight is needed to improve data security.
"To both prevent and remedy breaches, systems must be better protected, and when breaches do occur, consumer notification must be mandated at the federal level," Blumenthal said. "In an information age filled with enormous peril as well as promise people can be exposed to untold and unacceptable financial loss, privacy invasion, and personal danger if their own information falls into the wrong hands."
Data security legislation couldn't be more pressing, given the number of cybersecurity attacks in recent months. According to Blumenthal, nearly 23 million data breaches involving personally identifiable information have already been reported this year.
Additionally, as Trend Micro's latest quarterly threat report noted, the second quarter of 2011 was marred by data security threats, including cyberattacks, spam, social networking scams and mobile malware, among others. The quarter saw several high-profile attacks against large corporations as well as government agencies. As Blumenthal suggests, given the evolving nature of the cyber threat landscape, it may indeed be time for new standards mandating how organizations safeguard sensitive information.
"The staggering increase of data breaches in the past year compromising personal and financial information warrants a swift and comprehensive federal response to hold companies accountable," Blumenthal added. "As technology changes, so must our laws and regulations."