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12/22/2005
02:34 PM
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Data Security Movement Back-Burnered By Lawmakers

Despite a year's worth of highly publicized security breaches and a lot of talk in Congress this summer on ways to protect consumers, there's been too little done to protect U.S. consumers' data, Gartner research director Avivah Litan says.

Once a hot-button item, data and identity theft protection has stalled in Congress, a research analyst said Thursday, pushed aside by bigger political fish, ranging from Iraq and Hurricane Katrina to domestic spying and Supreme Court nominees.

Despite a year's worth of highly publicized security breaches and a lot of talk in Congress this summer on ways to protect consumers, there's been too little done to protect U.S. consumers' data, said Gartner research director Avivah Litan.

"It's business as usual," she said, citing two recent breaches -- one involving a lost backup tape with data on two million mortgage holders, another related to credit card fraud at gas pumps -- as evidence. "Not enough has changed. Data protection has moved up the priority list, but not nearly enough."

Identity theft legislation, which at one point this summer accounted for nearly 30 different bills in Congress, is going nowhere fast.

"Everything that Congress does is politically motivated, of course," said Litan. "Data security and identity theft are not front-burner issues now. They've been superseded by things like Katrina and the NSA's domestic spying. With all the other matters in front of Congress, it's inevitable that data security would lose its political appeal."

Although progress will continue to be made by states -- which have been leading the effort to regulate data security and consumer notification in the event of a breach -- Litan gives a federal bill just a 50-50 shot at passing in 2006.

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