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Financial services groups ask Congress to pursue new data breach rules

Last week, two top Democrats, Sens. Mark Warner, D-Virginia, and Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., called for increased governmental oversight over credit reporting agencies and stiff penalties for those agencies should they fail to protect consumers’ personal information.

But credit reporting agencies are far from the only companies that house consumers’ data.

Banks, credit unions, insurance companies, title insurers, and other companies are also tasked with safeguarding the information they possess.

And now, the trade groups that represent many of those companies are also asking for the government to enact new data security rules.

In a letter sent earlier this month to House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Rep. Greg Walden, R-Oregon, and Rep. Bob Latta, R-Ohio, the chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Digital Commerce and Consumer Protection, a collection of 22 trade groups say that they support new data security legislation because their member companies take data security “very seriously.”

The groups also lay out their vision for how that data security legislation should look.

After Equifax breach, anger but no action in Congress

The massive Equifax data breach, which compromised the identities of more than 145 million Americans, prompted a telling response from Congress: It did nothing.

Some industry leaders and lawmakers thought September’s revelation of the massive intrusion — which took place months after the credit reporting agency failed to act on a warning from the Homeland Security Department — might be the long-envisioned incident that prompted Congress to finally fix the country’s confusing and ineffectual data security laws.

Instead, the aftermath of the breach played out like a familiar script: white-hot, bipartisan outrage, followed by hearings and a flurry of proposals that went nowhere. As is often the case, Congress gradually shifted to other priorities — this time the most sweeping tax code overhaul in a generation, and another mad scramble to fund the federal government.

“It’s very frustrating,” said Rep. Jan Schakowsky of Illinois, the top Democrat on the House Energy and Commerce consumer protection subcommittee, who introduced legislation in the wake of the Equifax incident.

“Every time another shoe falls, I think, ‘Ah, this is it. This will get us galvanized and pull together and march in the same direction.’ Hasn’t happened yet,” said Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.), a member of a broader Senate working group that has tinkered for years to come up with data breach legislation.

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