Identity theft focus of new Senate bill

In light of the increasing numbers of identity theft victims, the Identity Theft Enforcement and Restitution Act of 2007 was introduced by two U.S. senators last week. The Act proposes adding protections for consumers who fall victim to identity theft to the existing bill focused on data privacy and security that passed the Senate Judiciary Committee in May.

Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee Patrick Leahy, a Democrat from Vermont, and Ranking Member Arlen Specter, a Republican from Pennsylvania, based this proposed new bill on their Leahy-Specter Personal Data Privacy and Security Act (S. 495).

Provisions of the bill include:

– Giving victims of identity theft the right to seek restitution for the time and money spent attempting to restore their credit.

– Expanding the jurisdiction of existing federal computer fraud statutes to include small businesses and corporations.

– Removing the requirement that information must have been stolen from another state or country, so that prosecutions can occur when the victim and the thief are located in the same state.

– Making the use of spyware or keyloggers that damage 10 or more computers a felony, regardless of how much resulting damage is caused.

– Eliminating the minimum requirement that $5,000 worth of loss must be experienced by the victim; this bill classifies incidents resulting in less than $5,000 worth of loss as misdemeanors.

– Expanding the definition of cybercrime to include threatening to obtain or release information from a protected computer and demanding money in relationship to a protected computer to facilitate extortion.

These provisions expand on the bill that passed the committee in May, which focused on disclosure responsibilities of organizations that suffer a data breach or loss jeopardizing sensitive information.

The senators, who say they worked with the Department of Justice to craft this updated bill, quote figures that put the number of identity theft victims at 8.4 million in 2006.

Introduced to the Senate yesterday, the Identity Theft Enforcement and Restitution Act of 2007 was referred to the Judiciary Committee, according to an official in Leahy’s office.

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