Eric Holder to Congress: Help Us Fight Target-Style Data Hacks

The attorney general Monday called on Congress to “create a strong, national standard for quickly alerting consumers whose information may be compromised.”

Battleground: It's all in the cards.
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Dustin Volz
Feb. 24, 2014, 12:35 p.m.

At­tor­ney Gen­er­al Eric Hold­er urged Con­gress on Monday to pass le­gis­la­tion that would re­quire com­pan­ies to fol­low na­tion­al stand­ards for no­ti­fy­ing their cus­tom­ers when struck by a ma­li­cious data breach.

A na­tion­al re­port­ing stand­ard “would em­power the Amer­ic­an people to pro­tect them­selves if they are at risk of iden­tity theft,” Hold­er said in his weekly video mes­sage. “It would en­able law en­force­ment to bet­ter in­vest­ig­ate these crimes — and hold com­prom­ised en­tit­ies ac­count­able when they fail to keep sens­it­ive in­form­a­tion safe.”

Hold­er cited the re­cent data thefts at ma­jor na­tion­al re­tail chains, in­clud­ing Tar­get and Nei­man Mar­cus, that left names, emails, and phone num­bers of tens of mil­lions of Amer­ic­ans ex­posed, adding that “these crimes are be­com­ing all too com­mon.”

Cur­rently, 46 states and the Dis­trict of Columbia own vary­ing no­ti­fic­a­tion-stand­ard laws, a patch­work sys­tem that has left many re­tail­ers and con­sumers alike frus­trated. The Na­tion­al Re­tail Fed­er­a­tion has long sup­por­ted a na­tion­al re­port­ing stand­ard.

Earli­er this month, Con­gress con­vened a bar­rage of data-breach hear­ings in both cham­bers. Ex­ec­ut­ives from Tar­get and Nei­man Mar­cus test­i­fied, as did Fed­er­al Trade Com­mis­sion Chair­wo­man Edith Ramirez, who also pushed law­makers to en­act breach-no­ti­fic­a­tion le­gis­la­tion.

But many Demo­crats are also ad­voc­at­ing grant­ing the FTC en­hanced au­thor­ity to fine com­pan­ies that don’t do enough to pro­tect cus­tom­er data, an idea the com­mis­sion also sup­ports. Re­pub­lic­ans, mean­while, are con­cerned about im­ple­ment­ing in­trus­ive reg­u­la­tion on the private sec­tor, des­pite many busi­nesses ur­ging Con­gress to do so.


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