Blumenthal Bill Bumps Up Fines for Security Breaches

Sunday, September 18, 2011

David Navetta


Article by Richard L. Santalesa

Blumenthal Bill Bumps Up Big Fines for Data Thefts and Security Breaches

Recently Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) introduced a one-hundred page bill, dubbed the Personal Data Protection and Breach Accountability Act of 2011, S.1535, (the “PDPBA Act”), referred to the Senate Judiciary Committee, that if ultimately passed would levy significant penalties for identify theft and other “violations of data privacy and security,” criminalize as felonies the installation of software that collects “sensitive personally identifiable information” without clear and conspicuous notice and consent.

It specifies requirements that companies collecting or storing online data of more than 10,000 individuals adhere to data storage guidelines to be enacted by the FTC via its Title 5 rulemaking authority, including a mandate to audit the information security practices of contractors and third party business entities. 

Notably the PDPBA Act provides for enforcement by the United State Attorney General, by State Attorneys General, and by individuals via a private right of action that allows for civil penalties of up to $10,000 per violation per day per individual up to a maximum of $20,000,000 per violation.

The complicated technology and legal landscape subject to the Act is plainly evidenced by the  numerous carveouts and exceptions, including express carveouts for financial institutions subject to the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act (“GLBA”), HIPAA regulated entities and public records.  With no co-sponsors at present PDPBA joins the crowded landscape of data security, privacy and other such bills that have been introduced in 2011 and which we've covered previously in detail.

The PDPBA Act’s findings section notes in support that “over 9,300,000 individuals were victims of identity theft in America last year” and “over 22,960,000 cases of data breaches involving personally identifiable information were reported through July of 2011, and in 2009 through 2010, over 230,900,000 cases of personal data breaches were reported.”

While we'll keep an eye on Senator Blumenthal's latest bill as it progresses through the long legislative process, some notable provisions in brief include:

  • The requirement that "business entities", as defined, shall "on a regular basis monitor, evaluate, and adjust, as appropriate its data privacy and security program" in response to changes in technology, threats, PII retained, and "changing business arrangements";
  • A duty to vet subcontractors not otherwise subject to the Act and to impose by contract appropriate obligations regarding data handling, security and safeguarding;
  • Steps by business entities to conduct employee training regarding data security programs;
  • Imposition of regular vulnerability testing by business entities subject to the Act;
  • Comprehensive requirements concerning risk assessment, management and control in the area of data privacy and security;
  • The implementation within one year of enactment of "a comprehensive personal data privacy and security program that includes administrative, technical, and physical safeguards appropriate to the size and complexity of the business entity and the nature and scope of its activities";
  • Civil penalties for violation of either, depending on who is seeking enforcement, of from $5,000 to $10,000 per day per violation, as well as potential punitive damages and equitable relief, "up to a maximum of $20,000,000 per violation" for each individual;
  • Criminal penalties of up to 5 years imprisonment for those who:
    • "intentionally or willfully conceals the fact of [a] [] security breach and which breach causes economic damage or substantial emotional distress to 1 or more persons," or
    • "engages in a pattern or practice of activity that violates [Section 105, Unauthorized Installation of Personal information Collection Features on a User's Computer]," or
    • sends "a notification of a breach of security is false or intentionally misleading in order to obtain sensitive personally identifiable information in an effort to defraud an individual"
  • Required notice, as specified in the Act, "without unreasonable delay" to individuals in the event of any data breach involving sensitive PII, as well as notice to the owner or licensee of the data breach, if applicable, after a risk assessment concludes the there is a significant risk of harm to the effected individual(s);
  • Two years of free credit reports on a quarterly basis, and credit monitoring, including a security freeze at no cost to the effected individuals in the event notice is required;
  • Notice to the FBI, Secret Service and credit reporting agencies in the event of a breach effecting more than 5,000 individuals;
  • The maintenance by the Attorney General of a "Post-Breach Technical Information Clearinghouse"; and
  • The requirement that all federal contracts with "data brokers" in excess of $500,000 are to be evaluated by the GSA with regards to the data privacy and security program, program compliance, and other factors.

Cross-posted from InfoLawGroup

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