March 10, 2005 8:58 AM PST

Senator predicts 'overdue' changes to privacy

WASHINGTON--Recent data mishaps at ChoicePoint and Reed Elsevier Group's LexisNexis service could usher in a dramatic reshaping of privacy laws, a U.S. senator predicted.

Vermont's Patrick Leahy, the top Democrat on the Judiciary committee, said Wednesday evening that a recent slew of data thefts and other leaks requires a "comprehensive rethinking" of the laws regulating companies that compile electronic dossiers on Americans that are typically purchased by creditors, employers or police.

"It's not a conservative or liberal issue," Leahy said during remarks at the Center for Democracy and Technology's 10th anniversary dinner. "We're going to explore these issues--something that's long overdue."

Leahy hinted that new laws might extend beyond data brokers to affect a broad swath of U.S. companies, which would be akin to proposals that Democrats have attempted without success in the past. The Vermont senator is among the Bank of America customers--more than a million in total--whose personal information was reported lost last month.

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Calls for reform
Click here for a full list of recent data thefts and a look at what Washington is thinking.

"Right now, Congress is focused on the data brokers," said Jerry Berman, CDT's president. "But I think when they begin to think through it, we'll be back (to) the need for more generalized privacy legislation that deals with the commercial, marketing sector as well as risk management functions."

A Senate Banking committee hearing at 11:30 a.m. PST Thursday is titled "Identity Theft: Recent Developments Involving the Security of Sensitive Consumer Information." Leahy and representatives from the U.S. Secret Service, Bank of America and ChoicePoint are scheduled to testify.

What began with the leak of tens of thousands of records from data broker ChoicePoint last month was quickly compounded by a series of rapid-fire incidents involving Bank of America and an online payroll site. An intrusion into Reed Elsevier Group's Seisint database, part of the company's LexisNexis subsidiary, has become the most recent incident that politicians have seized on as a way to justify new regulations in the area.


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Its amazing that this has been going on for years to the "average joe" and not one government member blinked and eye. All of the sudden BOFA loses some senators data, and here we go, gotta get legislation out the door immediatley. Before, when anyone brought up the idea of forcing companies to put safeguards into place to protect customers private data, it was shot down because it would put "undo burden" onto big corpoations (ie, it might cost them some money) now watch, its not gonna matter how much it costs the companies, it gonna have to be done. of course, big corps will be able to get govt subsidies (ie taxpayer dollars) so it wont cut into their precious profits. and the best part is it will be played out to consumers like they are doing us a great favor.
Posted by 203129769353146603573853850462 (97 comments )
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That's typical of any gov't organization (congress, senate, etc). They claim to be working for the people, but they don't care about it until it affects THEM personally... or their campaign funding.

There's a difference between Politicians and Statesmen...

Statesmen serve to better the country and help the people.
Politicians server to better themselves and help their friends.

I think we need to elect more of the former, and less of the latter.
Posted by (54 comments )
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Leakin' Leahy - a savior?
The most disturbing thing in the article and other business links where I have seen this 'announcement' - is that these are written to paint Sen. Patrick Leahy as a 'rescuer'. The last thing 'leaking Leahy' has on his mind is our well being and absolutely secure data. Noting these all say the same thing in little variance - the supposed balanced articles print partisan press releases, basically reducing the business writers to moronic sock puppets.
Posted by GoldHorde (1 comment )
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