TELECOM Digest OnLine - Sorted: States Scramble To Protect Data / Dozens of Privacy Bills

States Scramble To Protect Data / Dozens of Privacy Bills

Monty Solomon (
Mon, 11 Apr 2005 00:32:30 -0400

States Scramble To Protect Data
Dozens of Privacy Bills Introduced After Spate of Security Breaches

By Jonathan Krim
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, April 9, 2005; Page E01

Legislatures in more than two dozen states are considering ways to
give consumers more control over personal information that is
collected and sold by private firms, but many of the proposals are
drawing fire from financial services companies.

Bills are on the table in 28 states responding to a series of
high-profile security breaches at information brokers, banks and
universities that so far this year have resulted in more than 1
million Social Security numbers, driver's license numbers, names and
addresses falling into the hands of potential identity thieves.

In the most recent case, a medical group in San Jose announced
yesterday that records on roughly 185,000 current and former patients
may have been exposed after two of its computers were stolen.

The state activity is being closely tracked on Capitol Hill, where
several House and Senate members have introduced or are preparing
identity theft legislation.

Generally, the various state bills do not target how thieves are
obtaining data, through hacking, fraud or other means. But consumer
groups and privacy advocates, who are championing many of the
initiatives, say they would help shield consumers from the havoc and
damage that identity theft can cause.

One group of bills would allow consumers to "freeze" their credit
reports so that sensitive data could not be given out to anyone
without permission from the individual each time the data were

Identity thieves often strike by obtaining a piece of private
information, such as a Social Security number, and then using it to
establish credit and make purchases.

Credit-freeze bills are moving through legislatures in about 20
states. In some cases, any consumer could order a freeze at any time.
In other states, only people whose data have been breached would have
that option.

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