Nebraska personal information bill wins initial approval

LINCOLN, Neb. — A bill designed to protect consumers from identity theft in the wake of last year's massive Equifax data breach won first-round approval Thursday from Nebraska lawmakers.

The proposal would prevent credit reporting companies from charging a fee to impose or lift a security freeze on a consumer's personal information. It also requires that companies maintain "reasonable security procedures and practices" to protect such information and gives the attorney general's office greater authority to issue subpoenas and collect damages on the public's behalf.

Senators voted 34-0 to advance the measure to the second of three required votes, despite reservations from some senators who said they wanted to learn more about the bill.

The bill "ensures that the hard-earned dollars and credit of every Nebraskan is put before crediting reporting agencies like Equifax," said Sen. Adam Morfeld of Lincoln, whose information was compromised in the Equifax breach.

The breach exposed the personal information of 145.5 million Americans, including 700,000 Nebraska residents. The information exposed included Social Security numbers, birth dates, addresses and in some cases driver's license numbers. Equifax promised free credit monitoring for up to one year for those affected.

Morfeld's original bill would have required credit agencies to provide free, lifetime credit monitoring when their data systems were breached, but he narrowed it substantially after industry officials argued that they needed an income source to provide their services.

The bill would also require any third-party companies that get information from a credit monitoring company to have "reasonable security procedures" in place.

Some senators said they wanted more information about the bill's impact on the industry but agreed to let it go forward for now. Sen. Paul Schumacher of Columbus said he wanted assurances that the bill wouldn't inadvertently lead to significant cost increases for consumers.

"I think we realize we're all in an age where data breaches are going to happen," Schumacher said.

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Follow Grant Schulte on Twitter at https://twitter.com/GrantSchulte

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