The US Senate is considering a bill to boost personal data security and crack down on data theft, as corporate America struggles to keep a lid on continuing data loss scandals.
This year CitiBank, MasterCard, Bank of America, Lexis-Nexis, Time Warner, MCI and data broker ChoicePoint have all lost data covering millions of US citizens, and US senators want them to clean up their act. They also want to come down hard on the data thieves.
The Personal Data Privacy and Security Bill aims to restrict the sale or publication of social security numbers. In addition, businesses and organisations would only be allowed to ask for these numbers under a strict set of circumstances, such as obtaining credit reports or employing someone.
In the US a social security number is often used for basic identity requirements. US colleges, for instance, use social security numbers to identify students on campus.
The bill aims to tighten up rules that govern data brokers and create new penalties for database intrusion, including fines and up to 10 years in prison for offenders.
There would also be prison terms of up to five years for company executives who wilfully concealed security breaches to their systems.