Chairman Barton speaks out again on protecting personal information

The New York Times recently ran an editorial pointing out how crucial California’s data breach notification law has been in bringing to light the current vulnerabilities of personal information:

But for a single innovative law in California, the nation’s consumers might not even be hearing some of the more outrageous news about mass heists of supposedly secure computer information from reputedly trustworthy sources: LexisNexis gently announces about 32,000 suspected thefts of identity data, which soon balloon to 310,000. ChoicePoint, a data broker and credit reporting agency with access to 19 billion records, lets 145,000 consumers know their personal data may have been stolen [...]

Consumers, not data dealers, deserve controlling interest in their vital information [...]

Today the paper published a letter to the editor (dated April 18) from U.S. Representative Joe Barton (R-TX), Chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee (which has jurisdiction over many of the issues involved), in which the Chairman largely agrees with the paper’s sense of the current crisis:

Your take on a leading cause of identity theft was exactly right: nobody should have his or her Social Security number sold without permission.

Some say otherwise, and they’ve been pleading their case before my committee lately. But the plain fact is that in our society, our Social Security numbers are the keys to the bank vault for swindlers.

I’m probably going to be a lot more careful about imposing regulation on business and the economy than you would like, but if it takes action to stop the buying and selling of Social Security numbers without the knowledge and agreement of consumers, count me in [...]

Given these comments and his previous remarks, expect to see SSN-related legislation from Chairman Barton before long.

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