TELECOM Digest OnLine - Sorted: U.S. Identity Thefts Spur Senate Hearings

U.S. Identity Thefts Spur Senate Hearings

Lisa Minter (
24 Feb 2005 13:45:23 -0800

By JESSE J. HOLLAND, Associated Press Writer

WASHINGTON - A Senate committee will hold hearings on identity theft
and information brokers following the revelation that a databank with
information on millions of people was accessed by criminals, the
committee chairman said Thursday.

Democrats, including Sens. Patrick Leahy of Vermont, Dianne Feinstein
of California and Charles Schumer of New York, have been calling for a
Judiciary Committee inquiry into whether more regulation of companies
such as ChoicePoint Inc. that buy and sell personal data is needed.

"I got a letter from Senator Leahy yesterday on identity theft issue
and I immediately said we can hold a hearing," said Senate Judiciary
Chairman Arlen Specter, R-Pa.

Specter did not give a schedule for the hearings.

Formed in 1997 as a spinoff of credit reporting agency Equifax Inc.,
ChoicePoint has 19 billion public records in its database at its
suburban Atlanta headquarters, including motor vehicle registrations,
license and deed transfers, military records, names, addresses and
Social Security numbers.

It revealed last week that thieves apparently used previously stolen
identities to open ChoicePoint accounts and received volumes of data
on consumers, including names, addresses, Social Security numbers and
credit reports.

Choicepoint says 144,778 people may have been affected by the breach,
while California authorities estimate up to 500,000. The ring operated
for more than a year before it was detected and used the information
to defraud at least 750 people, investigators said.

Feinstein says the ChoicePoint thefts prove that there needs to be
federal regulation of information brokers, and that Americans need to
have more control over their personal data.

"The ChoicePoint situation is perhaps the biggest indication of the
vulnerability and lack of protection of individuals' personal data,"
she said.

She has introduced a bill that would expand nationwide a California
consumer protection law that requires companies to tell people if
there is a breach in their data systems. She also wants information
brokers to be forced to ask permission from people to sell their most
sensitive personal information.

Schumer, too, plans legislation that would create federal rules
setting conditions under which companies can provide or sell access to
private information.

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