As expected in his State of the Union address last night, President Obama made it very clear that cybersecurity is on his agenda for 2015.  After stating that:

 “No foreign nation, no hacker should be able to shut down our networks, steal our trade secrets or invade the privacy of American families, especially our kids,”

the President urged Congress to “finally” pass “legislation we need to better meet the evolving threat of cyber attacks, combat identity theft, and protect our children’s information” and cautioned law makers that “if we don’t act, we leave our nation and our economy vulnerable.”

Just days before the State of the Union address, in a speech delivered at the Federal Trade Commission on January 12, the President highlighted the measures he discussed in the State of the Union and unveiled the next steps in his comprehensive approach to better protect American companies, consumers, and infrastructure against cyber threats. These steps include:

  1. Improving consumer security by establishing a national standard for companies to notify employees and customers about security breaches and identifying and preventing identity theft. For more information about the proposed Personal Data Notification & Protection Act, please see our prior blog post. The President announced that in an effort to tackle identity theft and assist consumers in spotting identity theft early on, several large financial companies have committed to offer free credit scores to their customers, joining an existing list of financial companies that already engage in this practice.
  2. Improving consumer confidence online by passing a Consumer Privacy Bill of Rights to establish an enforceable code of conduct for online interactions and protect consumers’ privacy. This proposed legislation will be based on the Obama Administration’s 2012 Consumer Privacy Bill of Rights and is expected to be released within the next month and a half.
  3. Safeguarding student data in the classroom and beyond by passing legislation to promote student privacy, convening the private sector to pledge to help enhance the privacy of students, and offering  new tools via the Department of Education  to help schools and teachers better protect the privacy of students. Sometime in the next two months, the Obama administration will release a proposal to update the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA). The President highlighted that the proposed Student Digital Privacy Act would: (i) limit the use of data collected “in an educational context” to educational purposes; (ii) prohibit companies from selling student data to third parties for unrelated purposes; and (iii) prohibit targeted advertising derived from data collected in school, however, the bill would still permit the use of such data for certain types of research, as well as for improving the effectiveness of learning technology products. The President noted that the bill would be modeled on a recently passed California law covering the collection and use of student data. For more information on the California law, please see our prior blog post.
  4. According to a recent White House press release on the subject, as part of the Obama Administration’s comprehensive plan to better protect the privacy of consumers, on January 12, the Department of Energy and the Federal Smart Grid Task Force released a new Voluntary Code of Conduct (VCC) “for utilities and third parties providing consumer energy use services that will addresses privacy related to data enabled by smart grid technologies.” For more information about this initiative, please click here.

The next item on the law makers’ agenda is a hearing before the House Energy and Commerce subcommittee next Tuesday entitled “What are the Elements of Sound Data Breach Legislation?” According to new subcommittee Chairman Michael Burgess (R-TX), “data security will be the focus of our subcommittee’s first hearing as we drill down on what components should be included in a bill that will give consumers the peace of mind they deserve.”