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Senate Introduces Strong Privacy Bill 176

Posted by samzenpus
from the protect-yourself-at-all-times dept.
amigoro writes "US Senators introduced a bill that better protects the privacy of citizens' personal information in the face of data security breaches across the country. Key features of the bipartisan legislation include increasing criminal penalties for identity theft involving electronic personal data and making it a crime to intentionally or willfully conceal a security breach involving personal data."
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Senate Introduces Strong Privacy Bill

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  • by AltGrendel (175092) <ag-slashdotNO@SPAMexit0.us> on Thursday February 08, 2007 @09:02AM (#17932940) Homepage
    I thought that horse was already out of the barn.
    • by mr_matticus (928346) on Thursday February 08, 2007 @09:05AM (#17932960)
      A few horses are out of the barn, but that doesn't mean someone shouldn't close the gate to keep the rest in.
      • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday February 08, 2007 @09:34AM (#17933152)
        This doesn't do a lot for privacy. It still permits widespread snooping, selling of information by commercial entities, etc.

        It does nothing for example to the recent FBI snooping case:
        http://yro.slashdot.org/article.pl?sid=07/01/30/15 8227 [slashdot.org]

        Where the FBI has been found to capturing all an ISP's traffic, then filtering as needed to match the warrants they had. (The argument for that is bogus, if the FBI can do the filtering then the ISP could do the filtering. It's some sort of game to remove the 'minimization' requirement for search warrants.)

        Nothing to stop logging of everything you do. Nothing to stop AOL or Google collecting search information, which as we found can be used to identify individuals:
        http://news.com.com/2100-1030_3-6102793.html [com.com]

        The gate isn't closed, they're proposing to part close it. Better than nothing, but only a little better.

        • We have the Video Privacy Protection Act [cornell.edu] which gives better protection than almost all other data except possibly medical data.

          (Well, we had that. Note that, by the strict language of the law, I'm not sure it applies to DVDs, and the Patriot Act put in a double-wide back door that lets them get your video rental records as long as they pinky-swear they're somehow fighting terrorism.)

          But why can't we set the bar that high for other data?

        • by Shadowlore (10860)
          ...not to mention I bet they follow tradition and exempt the government from abusing privacy, failing to publicly report breaches, etc..
      • The problem is that closing the gate (passing the law) is most likely an excuse not to pursue the horses (spammers) that have already escaped (violated users' privacy), even though previously existing lassos (laws) are sufficient to capture (prosecute) them.

        Close the gate, sure, but don't disband the posse that's going after the horses!
    • by mfh (56) on Thursday February 08, 2007 @09:09AM (#17932982) Journal

      I thought that horse was already out of the barn.

      I'm sorry to inform you, sir, that your horse had to be sent to the glue factory. Please sign here.
      • by jafac (1449)
        ....your horse had to be sent to the glue factory....

        With a monthlong stop, along the way, at a bestiality-porn movie studio.
    • by TheMeuge (645043) on Thursday February 08, 2007 @09:45AM (#17933228)
      I am just wondering when there will be a bipartisan legislative effort to institute mandatory minimums for violation of the constitution by congress or the executive.
      • I am just wondering when there will be a bipartisan legislative effort to institute mandatory minimums for violation of the constitution by congress or the executive.

        Oh c'mon! Where are they 'funny' moderations when they're needed?
      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by Lord Ender (156273)
        You're out of touch.

        The constitution is not some sort of binary comparison test. It must be interpreted. If such a law were in place, it would be used as a political weapon more powerful than impeachment. It could shut down government entirely. If one party were to gain control of the Supreme Court, they could imprison their opponents to prison.

        No, that's a terrible idea you have.
        • by TheMeuge (645043)

          If such a law were in place, it would be used as a political weapon more powerful than impeachment.
          And here I was trying to think of whether garlic or a silver bullet would do it.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday February 08, 2007 @09:04AM (#17932958)
    Why isn't it fixed the right way? If the use of Social Security numbers by non-government agencies was ended then much of this would fix itself. Each company would likely pick a different number/id for each individual and it would partition the information. Then, stealing a single number wouldn't give you access to an entire individual.
    • I don't think people would go for that. Most people wouldn't want a different number for:

      1) Their "normal" bank
      2) Their mortgage lender
      3) Each of their credit cards (if they have any)
      4) Their employer
      5) Their school/university
      6) The credit report companies(?)

      And the credit report companies wouldn't want that confusion either, nor would the government. It'd be too confusing to figure things out. In the latter cases, it make tax avoidance much easier, and probably make the IRS even bigger, as if it wasn't ove
      • by Silver Sloth (770927) on Thursday February 08, 2007 @09:33AM (#17933146)
        Err... We Brits have exactly that. If you hack one of my bank accounts you haven't hacked them all. There is no reason for any one of my credit cards to know, or have anything in common, with any of my other credit cards. It works fine for us, we're not confused, credit report agencies work as well here as they do anywhere, and tax avoidance isn't a particular problem

        I am not a number, I am a free man!

        And long may it remain that way.
      • by Ihlosi (895663)
        I don't think people would go for that. Most people wouldn't want a different number for:



        It's a perfectly workable approach in much of the civilized world. It's just that the US doesn't really care about that.

      • by Slithe (894946)
        I thought we had different numbers for different systems. My bank account number is not the same as my credit card number (regular or medical), and both my SSN and my School ID are different as well.
      • Actually, in America, we already have that too. I have a bank account number, a mortgage account, credit card numbers, a number my employer uses, when I was in school I had a student ID, etc. The thing is, here in America, there is also this other number that gives a person just as much access to all of this information. If that were removed then, as the GP says, we wouldn't have nearly the issue we do today.
      • by mpe (36238)
        I don't think people would go for that. Most people wouldn't want a different number for:

        1) Their "normal" bank


        So is it impossible in the US for people to have more than one bank account? (Including with the same bank.) Do married couples get a special SSN for a joint account. What about power of attorney, executors of wills, etc?

        2) Their mortgage lender

        Ditto

        3) Each of their credit cards (if they have any)

        AFAIK even US credit cards use standard 16 digit numbers.

        4) Their employer

        How common i
    • by mwilliamson (672411) on Thursday February 08, 2007 @09:25AM (#17933090) Homepage Journal
      The SSN should be only considered as a gov't assigned userid. The government should now issue everyone in the USA a password and provide a government sponsored pluggable authentication system anyone could use for their company. Those using this system to authenticate customers would fund it. Password reset would be available at SSN offices only with verified photo ID. Lets end this bullshit once and for all and empower the end user to protect their identify credentials via at least a password, maybe even a RSA dongle.
    • That isn't the solution either. Instead, credit-issuing agencies should be required to verify requests for credit lines before approving them.

    • by nasor (690345) on Thursday February 08, 2007 @10:48AM (#17933948)
      A much better solution would be for companies to simply stop pretending that knowing a social security number somehow magically proves that you are who you claim to be.
    • by Cyberax (705495)
      Have you TRIED to do this? I'm working on a project which uses SSNs as user identifiers in automatic biometric door locks. We know that it is way too insecure, but there's no other good way (no, we can't use smart cards for access control).

      Users either too stupid to use something else or just plainly REFUSE something different from SSN. We tried to use phone numbers as IDs, and we still get tons of support calls from users who change their phone number and expect our system to magically pick up this change.
      • Why are you using SSNs and biometrics, you already have all the identifier you need in the biometrics. If you need to give the users something else to identify themselves with let them set a password or issue a unique ID of your own. Using something like an SSN that can be used for any number of other things is a privacy issue that needs to be stopped dead, now. Unless you are trying to keep track of every single taxpayer in America, there is no reason to use the number that was created just for that purpos
        • by Cyberax (705495)
          Biometric data from cheap devices can be used only for authentication. I.e. to confirm that a user with ID 12435478 is really the user with ID 12435478.

          And people just can't (or don't care to) remember anything other than their SSN. We allow them to use any identifier in place of SSN if they wish but most people just don't care.
          • The fact that you allow another form of ID number than SSNs is a step in the right direction. As long as that policy is clearly communicated to the end users, it is the users own fault if their other private information is compromised. However, in most instances like the one you describe, there either is no other alternative identification number allowed, or users aren't told that they can use something else.
      • by mpe (36238)
        Have you TRIED to do this? I'm working on a project which uses SSNs as user identifiers in automatic biometric door locks. We know that it is way too insecure, but there's no other good way (no, we can't use smart cards for access control).

        Dosn't sound like the biometrics are especially good if you need an identifier.

        Users either too stupid to use something else or just plainly REFUSE something different from SSN. We tried to use phone numbers as IDs, and we still get tons of support calls from users wh
  • I think the more important aspect is the increased penalties for willfully concealing a security breach. Increasing criminal penalties is of varying value. One of the reasons criminals commit crimes is because they think they won't get caught, so whether they risk 2 years in jail or 4 isn't going to matter that much to them.

    But increasing penalties for willfully covering up a data breach may have more effect. As we've seen, bigger breaches cannot be kept secret for long. There are too many ways for them to be ferreted out. Furthermore, the people who would be in a position to conceal a data breach are often people who are more afraid of jail than those who willfully commit crimes like identity theft.

    Of course, what I'd really like to see is a death penalty for spammers.

    - Greg
    • by kabocox (199019)
      Of course, what I'd really like to see is a death penalty for spammers.

      Them, folks? Nah, those that practise ID theft yes. Spammers are just annoying. Those that do ID theft or forgery ruin living lives.
  • by o'reor (581921) on Thursday February 08, 2007 @09:06AM (#17932968) Journal
    concerning whistleblowers who want to draw attention on possible security breaches inside a company, and who've been hit on hard both by corporations and justice every time it happened so far ?
    • where has someone legally revealed a problem such as what this law will address that has been mistreated by the courts? Its one thing to make people worried, its a whole 'nuther thing to back it up.

      In other words, I get so tired of this "implied knowledge" that people have getting rated insightful when all they are doing is hearsay. Give us links so your accusation has basis.
  • by Ihlosi (895663) on Thursday February 08, 2007 @09:06AM (#17932970)
    ... are better than what is in the actual legislation.



    Key features of the bipartisan legislation include increasing criminal penalties for identity theft involving electronic personal data and ...



    Great. Increase the penalties. That's not really going to deter the criminals, they operate on the thought that they don't get caught.

    ... making it a crime to intentionally or willfully conceal a security breach involving personal data.



    Also great. How about prohibiting the collection and storage of data that is not necessary for business transactions in the first place ?



    One can just hope that companies will think a little more about what and how much data they collect and store.

    • by Shadowlore (10860)
      Also great. How about prohibiting the collection and storage of data that is not necessary for business transactions in the first place ?

      Nope, instead they (the fedgov) are going to require them to keep more and more data. Why? because the government wants it. It's reminiscent of the old bumper sticker/slogan that says "Don't steal, the government hates competition.". The government is increasingly interested in any little piece of data it can get on you for any reason it desires. Since the likelihood (giv
  • Would not pass. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by EveryNickIsTaken (1054794) on Thursday February 08, 2007 @09:07AM (#17932974)
    The bill would increase oversight of government programs to collect personal information on citizens. I wouldn't expect this bill to move anywhere right now, with the 2008 presidential candidates starting to gear up. Nobody wants to vote for a bill that would "Let the terrorists win."
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday February 08, 2007 @09:09AM (#17932984)
    A fundemental personal privacy/personal data concept that should be the basis of all laws governing how businesses and governments handle and are responsible for personal data should be liability for PD loss/leakage is directly proportional to the amount of PD per individual.

    For example, your company leaks:

    1) Addresses
    2) SSN
    3) Email addresses

    That will give you three times the liability of a company that leaks:

    1) Address

    Make it financially worthwhile for companies to store the absolute minimum PD necessary to operate their business and to create the incentive to delete all unnecessary data at the earliest opportunity.

    With storage so cheap and the liability for companies or governments essentially divorced from the actual damage done to personal privacy breaches there is absolutely no reason for any company to store every bit of PD about you on their(insecure) systems.

    • why not add the following as well:

      No personal information may be stored on a computer accessable to an external nextwork except:

      1) For up to 24 hours after recieving the information.
      2) For up to 24 hours after the information is needed in a business transaction
      3) For no more than 72 hours consecutive for any reason
      4) For no more than 1 in 3 hours over any given timeframe of 216 hours or larger, except where initiated by the person to whom the data describes

      And
      5) No personal data can be taken outside of the
    • by mpe (36238)
      A fundemental personal privacy/personal data concept that should be the basis of all laws governing how businesses and governments handle and are responsible for personal data should be liability for PD loss/leakage is directly proportional to the amount of PD per individual.
      For example, your company leaks:

      1) Addresses
      2) SSN
      3) Email addresses

      That will give you three times the liability of a company that leaks:

      1) Address


      Assuming that there is a linear relationship between the number of fields le
  • by imag0 (605684) on Thursday February 08, 2007 @09:11AM (#17932998) Homepage
    I happen to deal with a lot of regulated information (PHI with HIPPA, PCI in some environments as well). One thing that always astonishes me is not that security breaches happen (we're human, things happen), but that there is little to no reported repercussions from those losses.

    It's one thing to have a security breach, but it's another one just to announce it, issue new cards to everyone and keep on working like nothing happened.

    I think the best thing would be that the gov steps up to the plate and actually *enforce* the current laws and not spend our time and taxpayer money to create a new raft of laws that will end up never getting enforced in the first place.

    Cheers,

    imag0
  • by 140Mandak262Jamuna (970587) on Thursday February 08, 2007 @09:13AM (#17933024) Journal
    Nothing will come out of Senate to increase privacy. Remember CAN-SPAM act and how it stamped out all the spam emails? This bill will protect privacy exactly the same way. If you think this bill will improve privacy, contact me. I have 22 million dollars stuck in a bank in Nigeria. Help me get it out I will give you 33% of it. Please dont be greedy and steal all that 22 million dollars from me. OK?
    • by AlHunt (982887)

      Nothing will come out of Senate to increase privacy

      No kidding. How the hell does congress reconcile on the one hand play at protecting "privacy" while at the same time doing this: ISP Tracking Legislation Hits the House [slashdot.org]?
      I know, I know - congress wants us to be protected from everyone but congress. These people are almost collectively bipolar.
    • I agree that asking the government to protect my privacy is like asking a thief to guard my jewelry. However, arguing that since it won't be completely enforced and won't completely stop the issue completely is intellectually dishonest.

      The first problem is that Congress itself has no enforcement capabilities. Those duties fall completely under the executive branch. If this law, or CAN-SPAM, or any number of other laws aren't well enforced, it isn't the fault of the law itself but of those enforcing it.

      Se

  • What a wash... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by flajann (658201)
    While I respect Patrick Leahy and what he's generally been doing for privacy and rights of speech in the past, I consider it a wash to think that a bill will "protect" our security.

    Raising criminal penalties for those commiting the breaches will not prevent them from happening (duh). Also, if the breacher is not within the jurisdiction of the US, it's pointless in any case.

    It will give all false sense of security without addressing the real problems and issues regarding data security. The real issue is

  • by Nicolas MONNET (4727) <(moc.liamg) (ta) (avitlaocin)> on Thursday February 08, 2007 @09:56AM (#17933354) Journal
    It's extremely weak.

    In Europe, basically, your personal information belongs to you. No one (with obvious *limited* exceptions for law enforcement and tax collection) can keep information about you without your knowledge & consent. You have a right to have your record erased / corrected. Infringers face jail time.

    • Normally, I'd agree.

      But given that most airlines (at those in the UK) are freely dishing out our personal information to the US whenever we travel there, does this statement really hold true anymore?
      • by Dunbal (464142)
        given that most airlines (at those in the UK) are freely dishing out our personal information to the US whenever we travel there, does this statement really hold true anymore?


              One could argue that this is a "legitimate business transaction". After all, they won't be allowed to fly to the US if they don't hand over the list. Now what the US does with this information is another story entirely...
    • by Slithe (894946)
      Are you sure about that?

      Key features of the bipartisan legislation include increasing criminal penalties for identity theft involving electronic personal data and making it a crime to intentionally or willfully conceal a security breach involving personal data, giving individuals access to, and the opportunity to correct, any personal information held by commercial data brokers, requiring entities that maintain personal data to establish internal policies that protect the personal data of Americans, requiring entities that maintain personal data to give notice to individuals and law enforcement when they experience a breach involving sensitive personal data and requiring the government to establish rules protecting privacy and security when it uses information from commercial data brokers, to conduct audits of government contracts with data brokers and impose penalties on government contractors that fail to meet data privacy and security requirements.

      That sounds pretty strong to me.

      • by Ihlosi (895663)
        Are you sure about that?

        Yes. Positive. *nod*

        That sounds pretty strong to me.

        That's because you've not seen really strong privacy laws yet.

        "You may not keep personal information except if required for legitimate business transactions, and then only as long as the transaction requires."

        "You may not share personal information with anyone unless the person in question gives you permission to do so."

        "You must report, and delete, any personal information you keep if the person requests it."

        _That's_ strong.

  • What I'd love to see, if it isn't already in the bill (and I didn't see confirmation of anything like that in the bill from the article) was to have companies and institutions that lose consumer data pay for something like 1-3 years of credit monitoring ....

    Personal data is too cheap and easy to collect and warehouse these days, and hence, easy to steal in huge chunks. If companies and institutions want to use and profit from our personal data, we should not have to suffer for it if they can't take care of
    • To supplement your good suggestions, i can add the following:
      1. Automatically make private and personal data of an individual as a copyrighted piece of art with protection under DMCA.
      2. Any waiver to this copyright would have to be approved by the person concerned.
      3. Such waivers are mandatorily limited to the scope of the transaction OR 3 years (whichever is smaller), after which the copyright reverts to the person.
      4. Misuse of this private copyrighted data including but not limited to publishing photos of
  • by caudron (466327) on Thursday February 08, 2007 @10:04AM (#17933418) Homepage
    ...I want a new Privacy Amendment.

    Seriously, Privacy is a right (according to SCOTUS) but currently the right is in limbo. The limits and effects are mercurial and need to be codified.

    Also, I'm far more worried about breaches of privacy by the government than by ID thieves. Shore up my Right to Privacy properly and I'll feel a little better about things. Adding sentencing recommendations to ID theft cases is like hate crime statutes. I'm not /opposed/ to an extra small smackdown for certain crimes (maybe...I admit to some uncertainty here) but I'd rather have a RIGHT to tell the phone company to play a game of Hide and Go Fsck Yourself when they ask for my SSN, for instance. Bonus points if I can get the right to do the same to the US Government when they don't /actually/ need it.

    Tom Caudron
    http://tom.digitalelite.com/ [digitalelite.com]
  • Is there a legal distinction between the terms "intentionally" and "willfully", or were two equivalent terms just used used for the sake of emphasis?
  • by uradu (10768) on Thursday February 08, 2007 @10:18AM (#17933558)
    The cornerstones of American justice, which have reduced criminality in this country to practically zero. How about for a change doing something effective, like restricting the rights of companies from even OBTAINING data they don't need? If you don't have information to begin with, it's much harder to abuse. The level of unnecessary information collection in the US is mind boggling, yet you cannot usually question or refuse any such requests without being denied the service you're trying to obtain. European--in particular German--data privacy has historically been much, much more effective, because it approaches information on a need-to-know basis and empowers the citizen to refuse to provide information they deem unnecessary. Only recently have these systems started to weaken, primarily because they have been pressured into adopting some of the cavalier American attitudes towards data privacy, often under the guise of fighting terrorism or international crime (child pornography, money laundering, etc.)
  • in many Western countries, the privacy laws are more to do with the collection of the data in the first place, rather than how to deal with privacy breaches.

    For example, "data may only be used for the purpose for which it was collected". This means that a company can't sell your data to another company, unless that is one of the purposes for which it was collected (which means that they have to tell you that clearly when they collect it).
    So if a company asks for your email address for a competition, they ca
  • The biggest loss of privacy comes from the commercial data brokers and credit agencies. Except for some restrictions on financial and medical data, they would like to gather up all the information they can about you and sell it to companies for mailing lists and to the government for fishing expeditions.

    This bill doesn't do squat on this issue.

    • by gorbachev (512743)
      You got that right. This bill does NOTHING to address the wholesale abuse of our privacy by the information brokers (Choicepoint, Acxiom, etc.)

      If I were running an organized credit card fraud operation, rather than pay hackers or carders for the information, I'd just pay for a monthly report of US people with income over $150K and a credit card balance over $50K. And I would get the information completely legally. My marks list would be much higher quality, and I could probably even sell that to every Russi
    • by Petrushka (815171)
      I disagree. I fear the US government much more than I fear credit agencies, or even spammers.
  • Like data retention, online surveillance (Carnivore successor that hoovers up all data then processes it!) and things like that. I'm a lot less concerned about personal information than I am about a surveillance state. We already have remedies for identity theft, even if they are a bit of a pain to use. Where are the ones that firmly restrict what the government can do which is far more destructive of privacy?
  • ...making it a crime to intentionally or willfully conceal a security breach involving personal data.

    Let's say you're doing some work on some corporate database software. It's your job - maybe you work at Oracle or something. Or perhaps you're an admin for a website that takes customer data. The details don't matter much. But let's say you find a problem, something that could be exploited.

    If you don't go public with it, you get nailed by this law. If you do, you get nailed with the DCMA.

    You are

    • by Ihlosi (895663)
      But let's say you find a problem, something that could be exploited.



      You only have to report actual breaches, not something that could be a problem. And the report probably has nothing to do with the exact technical details of the breach ... it's more important to document whose data and what exactly has been leaked.

  • by thomn8r (635504)
    Last week I had to sit through a HIPAA class ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Health_Insurance_Port ability_and_Accountability_Act [wikipedia.org] ) Granted, I was bored to tears, but I couldn't help but think that we need these same guidelines were applied to consumer data, including credit and financial info.

    HIPAA is a set of rules, with some teeth, that governs how patient medical information must be handled. The banks, credit agencies, etc would squeal like pigs if such legislation were proposed, but I think that's w

    • by outcast36 (696132)
      HIPAA has no teeth. Can you post a link to someone being punished for a HIPAA violation? I have never seen anyone prosecuted and I have seen some front-page SNAFUs.
  • How about protecting your personal browsing and usage information from the RIAA goons? Now that would actually be an improvement in privacy.
  • So in other words the government is compensating for running ape shit all over our privacy by putting some tougher penalties on private individuals that invade our privacy? Bah! It's nothing more then an empty political manuever to make them look better while the FBI, CIA or whomever looks into our bedroom window (figuratively or literally). Sad.

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