“The mammoth Equifax data breach has generated widespread outrage at the company’s lax security and slow, confusing public response to a break-in that exposed 143 million Americans to the risk of identity theft — but it still may not be enough to jolt Congress into action,” Cory and Martin report in a story out last night.
Congress has been locked in a decade-long logjam on legislation that would impose nationwide security regulations for companies and require them to swiftly notify customers about data breaches. While there is broad agreement that a federal data breach bill is needed, partisan divides, jurisdictional squabbles and industry rifts have paralyzed all efforts to this point.
Advocates are holding out hope, though, that the disastrous Equifax breach might be the final straw that helps break the congressional logjam. And lawmakers are vowing action — for now. “There’s been a renewed effort, certainly at the staff level,” Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.), who offered a data breach bill last year with Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), told POLITICO on Tuesday. “I expect to talk up the senators this week to say, ‘Let’s get our heads back in this game.’”
The pair is part of a broader Senate working group that has been discussing how to produce a bill that might actually move. The group includes powerful Republicans like Commerce Chairman John Thune of South Dakota and Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley of Iowa, as well as top Democrats like California Sen. Dianne Feinstein, the Judiciary panel’s ranking member, and Intelligence ranking member Mark Warner of Virginia.
But the key, observers said, will be whether Congress remains attentive after an upcoming round of hearings has ended. Blunt conceded that he and his colleagues “have been trying to get [a data breach bill] done for an embarrassingly long amount of time now.”