Friday, January 09, 2009

Montana Legislature, Day 5


In today's Bozeman Daily Chronicle, an article on a bill I presented yesterday; and a photo of me during the taking of the oath of office on Monday. Happy Fifth Legislative Day, everyone.

Pomnichowski seeks to tighten state’s watch on Social Security numbers
By DANIEL PERSON
Chronicle Staff Writer

HELENA — A bill put forward Thursday at the House State Administration committee would require state agencies to be on par with the private sector when it comes to protecting personal information. House Bill 155 sponsored by Rep. JP Pomnichowski D-Bozeman, seeks to reduce the number of state agencies collecting Social Security numbers, make those agencies more protective of the numbers they have and set up a way to let Montanans know if there has been a security breach.
Such protections are vital, Pomnichowski said, given that state government processes everything from tax returns to driver’s licenses, birth certificates to marriage licenses.
The state Department of Administration requested the bill. A fiscal note prepared for the bill says it would not cost any money because state agencies already have policies in place for protecting personal information — although Pomnichowski said those policies can be applied “as strictly or loosely as they can be.”
She emphasized that the bill would put the state under the same guidelines it spells out for the private sector. She cited the security breach at investment firm D.A. Davidson as an example of how hackers can get access to private information and how affected people can be properly notified.
“As bad as it was that a private computer system was accessed and the information stolen, the company realized that there had been a security breach and notified all of its clients so that they could take action to protect themselves if someone did try to use their personal information fraudulently,” she said.
The bill has the backing of the American Civil Liberties Union and the state’s chief information officer, Dick Clark. Also supporting the bill at the hearing was the Montana Newspaper Association. However, John Barrows, MNA’s executive director, said his group also had concerns with how the law would be implemented. If overextended, Barrows told the committee, the right to privacy could interfere with the public’s right to know. Barrows painted a scenario in which information is withheld or delayed under the guise of protecting Social Security numbers. “We understand the right to privacy. We have concerns that protecting the right to privacy does not override the right to know,” he said.