CIO Symmetry

Apr 9 2008   6:34PM GMT

Obama’s passport stolen = Data breach notification law

Glen Weaver Profile: The Weave

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So much for the technology candidate. Apparently, if I want to talk with Barack Obama’s people I need to use the old mojo wire. And then I’ll have to wait a week to hear if I will be granted an audience (though, to her credit, the receptionist at Obama’s senate office did seem to suggest the senator himself might have a minute).

A minute, that is, to discuss his recent support for S. 495, which is Vermont Sen. Patrick Leahy’s federal data breach law.

Obama signed on to the law, which mirrors to some extent 39 existing state laws dictating what private companies and government agencies must do in the event that they manage to lose personal data like credit card numbers and Social Security numbers.

Or passport records. I have to assume that was the impetus for Obama latching on as a cosigner to Leahy’s bill April 1. Though there is also value in saying “A law I cosponsor…”

Obama, along with Hillary Clinton and John McCain, learned that his own privacy was violated when employees at the U.S. State Department took a gander at his passport file earlier this year. Apparently political espionage has gone electronic, though it’s not clear yet if that’s a more effective route than brandishing flashlights in a
Washington hotel.

The bill was actually introduced over a year ago, at the start of the legislative session. Leahy, a Democrat, is pushing for it along with cosponsor Arlen Spector, a Pennsylvania Republican. It is one of a variety of bills that have shown up in Congress in recent years that would create a federal data breach notification law.

Should the federal government pass a data breach notification law, it would likely trump many, if not all, of the current state laws. That could be a good thing for CIOs because right now a business that has lost personal information must comply with the law for each state where each customer resides. That’s a lot of laws to deal with, given most businesses will have customers from at least a few states. We’ll have some stories soon detailing the federal legislation, as well as some of the differences in state laws.

In the meantime, figure that we might see a federal one soon. Leahy’s bill has gone through committee and is awaiting floor debate as scheduled by the majority leader. Even if it doesn’t happen this year, he could file it again next term. If it makes its way through Congress and Obama is sitting in the Oval Office, the bill has a good shot at becoming law.

Oh, that “technology candidate” mention above? Turns out Obama is the only candidate for president who has an issues tab on his website about, well, technology. Doesn’t mean he’s taking the right stand. But it does imply he’s paying attention.

That, or he thinks there are at least a handful of votes in there.

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