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Cyber Data Breaches Call For Tougher Laws, And Savvier Consumers

Courtesy of Pixabay

New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman says his office received reports of more than 1,500 data breaches in the year 2017, which exposed the personal records of over nine million New Yorkers.

Schneiderman says that number is a record – quadruple the number from 2016 – and he blames New York’s data security law, which he calls outdated and toothless.

“It doesn't even require companies to maintain reasonable data security unless the company decides to collect Social Security numbers. Companies aren’t even required to report breaches of many critical data types, including username and password combinations and biometric data like the fingerprint you use to unlock an iPhone.”

Schneiderman says he’ll introduce legislation to change that. Among other things, it would require Facebook and other social media sites to notify his office when they learn that users’ personal data were obtained and misused in violation of the law or the platform’s terms of service.

Schneiderman is also urging lawmakers to pass his SHIELD Act, which would require companies to adopt administrative, technical, and physical safeguards for sensitive data.

“There’s no reason to wait to pass the SHIELD Act. Every business that chooses to store sensitive information has a moral responsibility to maintain reasonable safeguards for that data. And if we pass this legislation, they would have a legal responsibility.”

In Connecticut, the State’s Better Business Bureau says the Cambridge Analytica revelations should be a wakeup call to consumers.

Spokesman Howard Schwartz says the fact that Cambridge was able to get data from 50 million Facebook users without their consent is not surprising.

“People tend to not read terms and conditions. And what we found out is that it’s not only the user that can have problems in terms of having their information mined but also friends of theirs, even people who have their Facebook pages hidden.”

Schwartz says there are steps people can take to gain some control over their personal data. They include removing sensitive information from their Facebook profile, not using Facebook to log into other apps, and deleting apps and games they don’t use.

Schwartz also says people are unknowingly giving away a lot of personal information when they take quizzes on social media.

“The quizzes may seem to ask silly questions, but they can put together a profile in ways you never imagined. And it is bought and sold and we never know who it will be sold to and how it will be used.”