OLYMPIA — Washington State Attorney General Bob Ferguson has introduced bipartisan legislation that will strengthen Washington’s data breach notification law to help Washingtonians protect their personal information.
“Identity thieves are using increasingly sophisticated methods to hack into consumer databases and steal financial information,” said Ferguson. “We must update our laws to help consumers better protect themselves in the digital age.”
The Attorney General request legislation Senate Bill 5047 is sponsored by Sen. John Braun, R—Centralia. The companion bill, House Bill 1078, is sponsored by Rep. Zack Hudgins, D—Tukwila.
“We need to be sure that consumers have access to timely information and understand how they can recover from the effects of data breaches. Identity theft is becoming more common and can have serious impacts on peoples' lives,” said Braun. “This bill will improve awareness and education for people whose sensitive data has been compromised.”
“The Legislature is going to have a robust discussion about cybersecurity this year, and letting people know if their personal information was compromised is an important part of that coming discussion,” said Hudgins. “This is a problem that is only getting worse and it is important that we work across the aisle and across state government to address it and protect the public.”
Every year, data breaches imperil the personal and financial information of millions of consumers across the nation. Sophisticated hackers attack businesses, non-profits, and public agencies of all sizes, accessing vast troves of consumer information with each breach.
Data breaches are on the rise. In 2012 alone, the most recent year that federal Bureau of Justice statistics data are available, 16.6 million Americans — some 7 percent of those age 16 or older — were victims of identity theft. According to the Online Trust Alliance, in 2013 there were 2,164 data breaches in which over 830 million records were exposed including credit card numbers, email addresses, login credentials, social security numbers and other related personal information.
Currently, the state law requiring consumer notification of a data breach does not adequately protect consumers in this new age of massive data breaches. It does not require notifications concerning the release of ‘encrypted’ data, even when the encryption is easy to break or there is reason to believe that the encryption ‘key’ has been stolen. Current law does not specify a deadline by which consumers must be notified nor does it require entities to provide consumers with information on how to protect themselves in the wake of a breach.
Finally, unlike other states, Washington state law does not require any centralized reporting to the state when a data breach occurs, resulting in a lack of robust information for law enforcement and consumers.
The proposed legislation strengthens Washington’s data breach notification law by:
- Eliminating the blanket exemption for encrypted data;
- Requiring consumer notification as immediately as possible and no later than 30 days whenever personal information is likely compromised;
- Requiring that the Attorney General be notified within 30 days when a data breach occurs at a business, non-profit or public agency, enabling the Attorney General to compile centralized information about data breaches for law enforcement and consumers; and
- Requiring businesses, non-profits and agencies, when reporting a breach, to provide consumers with basic information they can use to help secure or recover their identities.
The Office of the Attorney General is the chief legal office for the state of Washington with attorneys and staff in 27 divisions across the state providing legal services to roughly 200 state agencies, boards and commissions. Attorney General Bob Ferguson is working hard to protect consumers and seniors against fraud, keep our communities safe, protect our environment and stand up for our veterans. Visit www.atg.wa.gov to learn more.
Contact: Alison Dempsey-Hall, Deputy Communications Director