Obama Seeks Laws on Data Hacking, Student Privacy
President Barack Obama wants Congress to pass legislation requiring companies to inform customers within 30 days if their data has been hacked, a move that follows high-profile breaches at retailers including Target, Home Depot and Neiman Marcus.
A White House official said Obama will announce the proposed legislation Monday, along with a measure aimed at preventing companies from selling student data to third parties and from using information collected in school to engage in targeted advertising.
Obama’s proposals are part of a White House effort to preview components of the president’s State of the Union address in the lead-up to the Jan. 20 speech. The official, who insisted on anonymity, was not authorized to discuss the proposed legislation by name ahead of Obama’s speech at the Federal Trade Commission.
If passed by Congress, the Personal Data Notification and Protection Act would require U.S. companies to notify customers within 30 days of their personal information being compromised. Recent hackings have exposed the lack of uniform practices for alerting customers in the event of a breach.
The legislation would also make it a crime to sell customers’ identities overseas.
Obama’s proposals also follow last month’s hacking at Sony Pictures Entertainment. The White House has blamed the cyber attack on North Korea and responded with new sanctions against the isolated nation.
In addition to the customer notification legislation, Obama will also ask lawmakers to pass the Student Digital Privacy Act. The measure would prohibit companies from selling student data to third parties, a move spurred by the increased use of technology in schools that can scoop up personal information.
The White House official said the proposed bill is based on a California statute pushed by Common Sense Media, a group that promotes privacy. The organization said the proliferation of online platforms, mobile applications, cloud computing and other technology allows businesses to collect sensitive data about students including contact information, academic records, and even what students eat for lunch or whether they ride the bus to school.
“We applaud President Obama for standing up for school children, who deserve the opportunity to use educational websites and apps to enrich their learning without fear that their personal information will be exploited for commercial purposes or fall into the wrong hands,” Common Sense Media CEO James Steyer said in a statement.
The Center for Democracy & Technology also said it supports Obama’s moves to protect the data, while pointing out that his administration still uses electronic surveillance for national security purposes.
“Even with these proposed reforms, we must not forget about government surveillance reform,” said Nuala O’Connor, the group’s president. “Without the end to the mass surveillance practices of the U.S. government, any privacy reform is woefully incomplete.”
It’s unclear whether the new Republican-led Congress will take up either of Obama’s legislative proposals.