AG Conway urges Congress to preserve state authority to enforce data breaches


FRANKFORT – Attorney General Jack Conway joined a bipartisan effort to ensure that any future federal data breach notification or data security law is effective and provides consumers with the best protection on Wednesday. Attorney General Conway and 46 other state attorneys general sent a multistate letter to members of the U.S. Congress emphasizing the importance of maintaining states’ authority to enforce data breach and data security laws, and their ability to enact laws to address future data security risks.

Citing recent efforts in Congress to pass a national law on data breach notification and data security, the attorneys general caution against federal preemption of state data breach and security law and argue that any federal law must not diminish the important role states already play protecting consumers from data breaches and identity theft.

“As Attorney General of the Commonwealth of Kentucky, it’s my job to protect consumers and communicate with them about data breaches and potential identity theft,” Attorney General Conway said. “My office is equipped to assist consumers and act quickly to get them the help they need.”

In 2014, Kentucky consumers were affected by national data breaches at: PF Changs, Dairy Queen, Jimmy Johns, Goodwill, Home Depot, Kmart, Community Health Systems, eBay, UPS Stores, Staples, Sally’s Beauty Supply and JP Morgan Chase.

The letter points out a number of concerns with federal preemption of state data breach and security laws, including:

– Data breaches and identity theft continue to cause significant harm to consumers. Since 2005, nearly 5,000 data breaches have compromised more than 815 million records containing sensitive information about consumers – primarily financial account information, Social Security numbers or medical information. Full-blown identity theft involving the use of a Social Security number can cost a consumer $5,100 on average.

– Data security vulnerabilities are too common. States frequently encounter circumstances where data breach incidents result from the failure by data collectors to reasonably protect the sensitive data entrusted to them by consumers, putting consumers’ personal information at unnecessary risk. Many of these breaches could have been prevented if the data collector had taken reasonable steps to secure consumers’ data.

– States play an important role responding to data breaches and identity theft. The states have been at the frontlines in helping consumers deal with the repercussions of a data breach, providing important assistance to consumers who have been impacted by data breaches or who suffer identity theft or fraud as a result, and investigating the causes of data breaches to determine whether the data collector experiencing the breach had reasonable security in place. Forty-seven states now have laws requiring data collectors to notify consumers when their personal information has been compromised by a data breach, and a number of states have also passed laws requiring companies to adopt reasonable data security practices.

The letter urges Congress to preserve existing protections under state law, ensure that states can continue to enforce breach notification requirements under their own state laws and enact new laws to respond to new data security threats, and to not hinder states that are helping their residents by preempting state data breach and security laws.

In 2005, 44 state attorneys general wrote a similar letter to Congress calling for a national law on breach notification that did not preempt state enforcement or state law.

The letter letter, co-sponsored by Arkansas, Connecticut, Illinois, Indiana, Maryland, Massachusetts and Nebraska, was also joined by the following states and territories: Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, California, Delaware, District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, North Mariana Islands, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, and West Virginia.

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