general seeks national standard to protect against identity theft
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[February 24, 2014]
WASHINGTON (Reuters) — Attorney
General Eric Holder, citing the recent massive data theft at retailer
Target Corp, urged Congress on Monday to enact a national standard for
notifying consumers about such breaches.
"This would empower the American people to protect themselves if
they are at risk of identity theft," Holder said in a statement
urging congressional action. "It would enable law enforcement to
better investigate these crimes — and hold compromised entities
accountable when they fail to keep sensitive information safe."
Data thefts at Target and luxury retailer Neiman Marcus Group LLC
have rekindled enthusiasm in Congress for a single federal law on
how customers should be notified about such breaches. But those
efforts face the same roadblock as in the past: dozens of
overlapping state laws are already in place.
Federal laws regulate how specific industries, such as banks and
hospitals, handle compromised data security, but other kinds of
companies, including retailers, face no such uniform standard.
Instead, 46 states and the District of Columbia have passed their
own laws that tell companies when and how consumers have to be
alerted to data breaches and what qualifies as a breach.
Negotiations over fitting state standards under an umbrella federal
law therefore face a tug of war among companies, consumer advocates
and state authorities.
The National Retail Federation in a January letter to Congress
restated its decade-old position in favor of a nationwide standard
that would pre-empt state rules.
But some state attorneys general worry that federal standards would
dilute their power to pursue violators.
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Saying that data breaches "are becoming all too common," Holder said
Justice Department officials were working closely with the FBI and
prosecutors to combat cyber criminals.
"It's time for leaders in Washington to provide the tools we need to
do even more," he added, urging Congress "to create a strong,
national standard for quickly alerting consumers whose information
may be compromised."
(Reporting by Peter Cooney; additional reporting by Alina Selyukh;
editing by Meredith Mazzilli)
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