Senate panel chairman taps data security, privacy as top priorities in new Congress

Ensuring that financial regulators and the companies they supervise provide adequate disclosure about what information is being collected about consumers and others, and for what purposes, should be examined by the Senate Banking Committee in the new Congress, its chairman stated in a column posted Monday.

Chairman Mike Crapo (R-Idaho) said the committee should also look at how best practices may be used to give both “citizens” and consumers control over how financial regulators, private financial companies and non-affiliated third parties use consumer data.

“In order to fully embrace the immense benefits that can result from technological innovation, we must ensure proper safeguards are in place and consumers are fully informed,” Crapo wrote in his “Weekly Column” that appeared on his Senate website. “In light of the hundreds of millions of consumer accounts affected by massive data breaches at corporate entities and government agencies, we cannot underestimate the intrinsic vulnerability in collecting and storing our personal financial information.”

The Banking Committee chairman wrote that many products and services today revolve around big data analytics, data aggregation and other technologies that make use of consumer data. He asserted that these processes often operate in the background, not always completely transparent to consumers. “Big data collection has long troubled me, and it is important for consumers to know when their data is being collected and how it is being used,” he wrote. “It is equally important for the companies and the government alike to act responsibly with this data and ensure its protection. As we have seen in recent years, this can be a challenging task.”

Crapo added that as Banking Committee chairman he will explore legislation to give consumers more control over protection of their consumer financial data, enhance its protection, and “ensure consumers are notified of breaches in a timely and consistent manner.”

Weekly Column: Respecting Privacy and Safeguarding Data