This morning, Public Knowledge and 11 other nonprofit organizations sent a letter opposing the draft Data Security and Breach Notification Act of 2015. The letter was sent to the Subcommittee on Commerce, Manufacturing and Trade of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, as that committee is holding a hearing on that bill this morning.
The bill relates to security of data and notification to customers when their data is stolen in a breach of a company's security. Among other things, the bill would limit the authority of the Federal Communications Commission, which currently oversees data breach notifications with respect to communications providers, to regulate such data breaches.
The following are selections from the letter sent this morning:
“We are twelve organizations representing the public interest in the areas of privacy and consumer policy. We write to express our strong opposition to the draft Data Security and Breach Notification Act of 2015. As currently written, the bill severely undercuts communications data breach protections upon which millions of Americans rely, by superseding key parts of the Telecommunications Act of 1996 as implemented in rules promulgated by the Federal Communications Commission.
“Communications record data is among the most private information we have because it easily could reveal the identities of the persons and the places called, and thus reveal the most intimate details of a person's life. For decades, the Communications Act has protected this sensitive information about communications network usage. But section 6(c) of the proposed Data Security and Breach Notification Act of 2015 would replace many of these key protections with weaker standards.
“This excoriation of communications data breach protection could not come at a worse time, right on the heels of the FCC’s historic Open Internet order. As the Order explains, ‘consumers concerned about the privacy of their personal information will be more reluctant to use the Internet, stifling Internet service competition and growth.’
“To eliminate those data breach protections that consumers currently enjoy under the Communications Act, to take authority from a commission with decades of experience regulating use of personal information by communications providers, to cut back on the FCC’s ability to protect consumers when the FCC has prominently expressed its commitment to protecting them — these would not merely be a mistake. These would be an affront to the American people’s expectations for privacy and for their communications services.”
Public Knowledge previously expressed concern with the draft bill when it was first introduced. As was attributed to Charles Duan, staff attorney with Public Knowledge:
“We strongly oppose the provisions of the Data Security and Breach Notification Act that would strip the Federal Communications Commission of its ability to fully protect consumers' right to privacy in their telephone records. This bill likely undermines the trust that the people have come to expect in their communications services. It is a slap in the face of the American public that this bill would stop the FCC from continuing its mission of protecting the consumer interest in the area of communications privacy.
“We certainly believe that data breach legislation is necessary and essential, and look forward to working with the bill's sponsors and members of Congress to craft appropriate laws that properly protect the consumer interest. This bill, however, does not do that, and we cannot support it.”
Members of the media may contact Communications Director Shiva Stella with inquiries, interview requests, or to join the Public Knowledge press list at firstname.lastname@example.org or 405-249-9435.