Turf War Brewing Over Target Data-Breach Hearings

Wednesday, 15 Jan 2014 11:47 AM

By Lisa Barron

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Democratic senators are fighting over who will lead the response to the massive data breach at Target over the holiday shopping season.

At least three Senate committees have already taken steps to hold inquiries into the security disaster that exposed the personal information of as many as 110 million customers, reports Politico.

"There's an awful lot of turf consciousness, which is really sad because it's such a profound safety subject for America," Senate Commerce Committee Chairman Jay Rockefeller of West Virginia said.

Rockefeller sent a letter Friday to Target CEO Gregg Steinhafel claiming that Commerce "has jurisdiction over commercial data practices and data security" and requesting a briefing for committee staff.

Also on Friday, fellow Democrat Sen. Mark Warner of Virginia announced that his Banking subcommittee on security will hold a hearing on whether consumer information is being protected by financial service providers, and a Banking Committee aide told Politico the committee "plans to do its part by conducting oversight."

Both of those moves came two days after Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Sen. Patrick Leahy of Vermont introduced his fifth data privacy bill and said he would hold a hearing on the issue. "The Senate Judiciary Committee has done extensive work in this area," a Judiciary Committee aide told Politico.

"The committee structure hasn't kept pace with this rapidly evolving policy challenge," said another Senate Democratic aide, adding that it has "diluted responsibility for addressing what is essentially a security question to multiple committees."

That could impede actual progress on the issue. "It's not necessarily cross purposes, just policy differences," Joseph Rubin, head of federal government affairs for Tech America, told Politico, noting, "Until that is reconsidered, it's going to be very difficult to get something on the floor."

The hearings may not even be limited to the Senate as 17 Democratic members of the House Financial Services Committee called last week for Republican Chairman Jeb Hensarling of Texas to hold a hearing as well, reports Bloomberg.

And the top Democrat on the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, Elijah Cummings, sent a letter to that committee's Republican chairman, Darrell Issa of California, requesting an inquiry, according to Bloomberg.

Steinhafel for his part issued an open letter on Monday apologizing for the data breaches.

He also said that Target is hiring a team of data security experts and ensuring that customers won't be held accountable for any fraudulent charges.

"I know this breach has had a real impact on you, creating a great deal of confusion and frustration," he stated in the letter. "I share those feelings. We are determined to make things right."

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