In the aftermath of recent data breaches, the Senate Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs’ Subcommittee on National Security and International Trade and Finance, the Senate Judiciary Committee, and the House Energy and Commerce’s Subcommittee on Commerce, Manufacturing, and Trade conducted a series of hearings to examine potential solutions to prevent data breaches in the public and private sector.
Members of Congress and witnesses present at these hearings considered various tools to help prevent data breaches or otherwise respond to data breaches, including the expansion of the Federal Trade Commission’s (“FTC”) authority to regulate and enforce data security and breach notification measures and increased penalties on companies that knowingly conceal a breach. During and after these hearings, several members of Congress have announced their support for broad adoption of the “Chip and PIN” system to replace technologies that are more widely used at point of sale (“POS”) systems in the United States.
Senate Banking Subcommittee on National Security and International Trade and Finance
On February 3, 2014, the Senate Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs’ Subcommittee on National Security and International Trade and Finance (“Subcommittee”) convened a hearing on data breaches entitled, “Safeguarding Consumers’ Financial Data.” The Chip and PIN system was repeatedly discussed throughout the hearing as a potential technology solution to help prevent hackers from obtaining unauthorized access to personal information from POS systems. Subcommittee Chairman Mark Warner (D-VA) stated his support for the Chip and PIN system, calling on the card industry and retailers to adopt the system.
Senate Judiciary Committee
On February 4, 2014, the Senate Judiciary Committee (“Committee”) held a hearing on data breaches entitled, “Privacy in the Digital Age: Preventing Data Breaches and Combating Cybercrime.” Senators present at the hearing agreed that recent data breach occurrences at retailers demonstrate a systemic issue that can only be addressed through collaboration from stakeholders and the government. During the hearing, Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-VT) sought to draw support for his legislation, S. 1897, the Personal Data Privacy and Security Act of 2014. Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) promoted his legislation, S. 1995, the Personal Data Protection and Breach Accountability Act of 2014.
House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Commerce, Manufacturing, and Trade
On February 5, 2014, the House Energy and Commerce’s Subcommittee on Commerce, Manufacturing, and Trade (“Subcommittee”) held a hearing on data breaches entitled, “Protecting Consumer Information: Can Data Breaches Be Prevented?”. Unlike the two Senate hearings on the same subject held earlier during the same week, this hearing waded into privacy issues as well. Representative Joe Barton (R-TX), Co-Chair of the Bi-Partisan Privacy Caucus (“Caucus”), stated that results from the hearing will supplement discussions in future Caucus meetings on such issues. Similarly, Representative Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) and Representative Peter Welch (D-VT), Co-Chairs of the Privacy Working Group (“Group”), noted that issues raised during the hearing will contribute to the dialogue during future Group meetings.