In the news

U.S. PIRG
|
AP via Boston Globe
By
Eric Tucker

The data breach at Target Corp., which exposed millions of credit card numbers, has focused attention on the patchwork of state consumer notification laws and renewed a push for a single national standard. Most states require retailers to disclose data breaches, but laws vary wildly. Consumers in one state might learn immediately that personal information has been exposed, but that might not happen in another state, and notification requirements for businesses depend on where customers are located.  Attorney General Eric Holder has joined the call for a nationwide standard, but divisions persist, making a consensus questionable this year. ‘‘We’re stuck with the state-by-state approach unless some compromise gets done at the federal level,’’ said Peter Swire, a Georgia Tech privacy expert.

There are obstacles to a straightforward compromise:

■ Consumer groups don’t want to weaken protections in states with the strongest laws.

■ Retailers want laws that are less burdensome to comply with and say too much notification could cause consumers to tune out the problem.

■ Congress is looking at different proposals for how any federal standard should be enforced and what the threshold should be before notification requirements kick in.

[...] Currently, 46 states and the District of Columbia have their own notification laws, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.Proposals now before Congress would require notification. But there are differences in what information the notification would provide, the threshold for notifying regulators and law enforcement, and the proposed enforcement. Some bills seek criminal penalties for deliberately concealing a breach; others do not. Consumer groups fear any national standard could turn out to be weaker than the strongest state laws, such as California’s, which requires a business or state agency to notify any resident whose data were improperly obtained.

‘‘From industry’s perspective, whether you’re a bank or a merchant, you don’t want to have to notify consumers,’’ said Ed Mierzwinski, at the US Public Interest Research Group. ‘‘They want to preempt, or override, the best state laws.’’[...] Read full story here.

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