Obama to propose new laws to protect consumer data

Congress has long wrestled with how to beef up federal laws to protect consumers and their privacy.

FILE: US President Barack Obama in November 2014. Picture: EPA.

WASHINGTON - US President Barack Obama on Monday plans to discuss three new proposed laws aimed at protecting Americans and the trail of data they leave on smart phones, computers and other devices.

Congress has long wrestled with how to beef up federal laws to protect consumers and their privacy, a struggle that intensified after hackers stole massive amounts of credit card data from companies like Target and Home Depot

The White House said Obama will weigh in with his legislative ideas during a speech at the Federal Trade Commission at 11:55 am.

The speech is part of Obama's preview of his Jan. 20 State of the Union address in which he will seek to highlight areas of common ground with Republicans who now control the U.S. Congress.

Obama will propose a new national standard that would require companies to tell consumers within 30 days from the discovery of a data breach that their personal information has been compromised, the White House said.

The standard would need approval from Congress, where lawmakers have struggled to come up with a way to replace a patchwork of differing state regulations.

As part of the law, Obama will also propose to criminalize overseas trade in stolen identities, the White House said.

Obama will also resurrect a "Consumer Privacy Bill of Rights" that the White House created in 2012. He will ask lawmakers to codify the bill into law.

The bill is designed to empower consumers to have a say in how companies use "Big Data" techniques to harvest and sell data from the digital footprints consumers leave online.

The administration will release its revised legislative proposal for the privacy bill within 45 days, the White House said.

A third piece of legislation is aimed at protecting students. Obama plans to propose to ban educational software companies from selling data they collect data from students through educational apps and programs to third parties, or using the data for targeted ads, the White House said.

Obama also will tout a new voluntary code of conduct for utilities to protect consumers' energy use information.

On Tuesday, Obama will continue his focus on cybersecurity, discussing ways that government and the private sector can share more information about cyber threats.

Cyber attacks were put into focus after Sony Pictures was hacked, an incident that Obama has blamed on North Korea.