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Target data breach catches Senate’s eye

WASHINGTON — A trio of Senate committees are considering legislation to address data breaches like Target’s.

Target officials would have local allies if either Judiciary or Commerce decides to call them to D.C. to testify on the breach — Sens. Amy Klobuchar and Al Franken are members of the Judiciary Committee and Klobuchar sits on the Commerce panel as well.
MinnPost photo by Rita Kovtun

WASHINGTON — The data breach Target suffered last month has gotten the U.S. Senate’s attention.

In a Wendesday story, Politico detailed how a handful of powerful Senate committees are lining up to probe the post-Thanksgiving data leak, which Target has said resulted in the theft of 40 million credit card records and up to 70 million pieces of other customer data.

According to Politico, members of the Senate Commerce, Banking and Judiciary Committees are already looking into the matter. Some of the lawmakers have introduced consumer data protection bills (many of which have stalled), and there’s hope a high-profile breach like this one could spur action on them.

From Politico:

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[Sen. Jay] Rockefeller and Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.), who chairs the Commerce subcommittee on consumer protection, sent a letter Friday, asking Target officials to brief committee staff and asserting that Commerce “has jurisdiction over commercial data practices and data security.” Rockefeller proposed data security legislation in 2010 that would have made businesses establish measures to protect sensitive information. He plans to bring up legislation again this session, a committee aide said.

On the same day, Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) announced his Banking subcommittee on security would hold a hearing to examine whether financial service providers are protecting consumer information. Two days earlier, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) introduced data privacy legislation for the fifth time and vowed to hold a hearing on the issue.

And that’s just to start. Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.) chairs the Homeland Security Committee, but his data security legislation dealing with financial data — which he will reintroduce Wednesday — has gone before the Banking Committee. Senate Banking Committee member Pat Toomey’s (R-Pa.) narrower data breach notification bill has been sent to Commerce. And Leahy’s legislation, which also delves into criminal penalties for hackers, has been referred to the Judiciary Committee.

Politico notes that there’s a bit of behind-the-scenes fighting over which committee should have oversight jurisdiction at this point. Target officials would have local allies if either Judiciary or Commerce decides to call them to D.C. to testify on the breach — Sens. Amy Klobuchar and Al Franken are members of the Judiciary Committee and Klobuchar sits on the Commerce panel as well.

In December, Klobuchar told WCCO there should be updates to cyber security laws in the wake of the Target breach.

Devin Henry can be reached at dhenry@minnpost.com.