Congressman Peter Welch is sponsoring legislation to protect the personal information of consumers from electronic data breaches in the future. Welch says he's concerned because cyber criminals are stealing this data at an alarming rate.
Welch says the bill is needed because in the last few years, cyber attacks have compromised the personal and financial information of millions of consumers.
Welch says only 12 states have laws governing commercial data security. That's why his bill creates a federal standard to protect this financial and personal information.
"This issue is one of enormous concern to everybody. Folks are trying to get our financial information. It's identity theft, and we need a strong federal standard that's going to provide some protection,” Welch says.
Welch says that 7 percent of all adults were victims of identity theft in the past year, and he says this clearly demonstrates the need for Congress to act on this issue.
"The hackers are getting more and more clever and folks who are victims of identity theft – it is a huge hassle to try to put that identity back together,” Welch says. “So this legislation, I think, would provide real help to all of us in having more confidence that our data will be secure."
Welch says the legislation also gives the Federal Trade Commission the authority to impose major fines when a business fails to meet the new federal security standards.
"I'm very pleased that the Republicans are willing to work with me in giving robust authority and significant civil penalties authority to the Federal Trade Commission in the event that there's some sloppy practices out there that jeopardize our data,” Welch says.
The legislation also requires businesses to notify consumers know when a data breach has taken place. The House Commerce committee will hold a hearing on the bill next week.