Obama aims to tighten laws on data hacking and student privacy

The moves come in the wake of the hacks of Sony Pictures and some retailers

U.S. President Barack Obama is expected to call Monday for new federal legislation requiring hacked private companies to report quickly the compromise of consumer data.

Obama is also likely to propose rules that prohibit technology companies from profiting from information collected in schools, according to a report Sunday in the New York Times, quoting White House officials.

The proposed federal law on data hacks, which the president is expected to discuss in a speech to the Federal Trade Commission, would require companies to report within 30 days of finding that their data has been hacked, according to the newspaper. It will specify when breaches must be disclosed and makes it a crime to sell a person's online information abroad. The FTC would have the authority to penalize errant companies.

The call for the Personal Data Notification and Protection Act comes in the wake of the hack in November of Sony Pictures, which the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation holds was the handiwork of North Korea, and previous hacks of the point-of-sale systems of a number of retailers like Target and Home Depot.

The collection and handling of information of students by technology companies has been a large concern with parents groups in the U.S.

Microsoft and other companies that provide education technologies and services to U.S. schools at the kindergarten to 12th standard levels took a pledge in October not to sell student information or behaviorally target advertising. Apple later joined the program.

The companies pledged, among other things, to be transparent about the collection and use of data, to adopt comprehensive security standards to protect student data and use the data only for authorized education purposes. The move was, however, seen as an attempt to propose self-regulation as an alternative to tighter laws.

Obama's proposal is expected to be similar to a law already passed in California.

California Governor Jerry Brown signed in September a bill to prohibit targeting of students for online marketing and advertising, selling of student information, profiling students based on data collected, and requiring operators to have security measures to protect student data.

Obama is expected to announce in a series of speeches, ahead of the State of the Union Address on Jan. 20, plans for higher privacy protection, improved safeguards against identity thefts, higher cybersecurity for the government and private companies, and better access to high-speed broadband connections across the country, the New York Times reported over the weekend.

After the Sony hack, cybersecurity is once again high on the agenda of lawmakers.

U.S. Representative C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger, a Democrat from Maryland, reintroduced Thursday the controversial Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (CISPA) that would provide for sharing of data between government and the private sector. The bill passed the House of Representatives in 2013, but a similar bill was stalled in the Senate because of concerns about privacy arising from the proposed sharing of data.

John Ribeiro covers outsourcing and general technology breaking news from India for The IDG News Service. Follow John on Twitter at @Johnribeiro. John's e-mail address is john_ribeiro@idg.com

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