January 12, 2015 / 6:55 AM / 3 years ago

Obama proposes new data laws as U.S. Central Command hacked

U.S. President Barack Obama speaks during his visit to Pellissippi State College in Knoxville, Tennessee, January 9, 2015.Kevin Lamarque

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Barack Obama on Monday said he wants to work with Congress on new laws that would do more to protect Americans' privacy and the trail of data they leave on smart phones, computers and other devices.

Underscoring the threat posed by hackers, the Twitter feed of U.S. Central Command, which leads U.S. military action in the Middle East, was hacked by someone claiming to be associated with Islamic State militants, while Obama spoke.

The White House said the hack was under investigation, but noted that hacking a social media account carries less risk than large data breaches.

Obama said there are inherent risks in doing business online. "Major companies get hacked. America's personal information, including financial information, gets stolen. And the problem is growing and it costs us billions of dollars."

The president proposed 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.

He also asked Congress to codify into law a "Consumer Privacy Bill of Rights" that the White House created in 2012 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.

Obama also said he wants to propose barring educational software companies from selling data they collect from students through educational apps and programs to third parties, or using the data for targeted ads.

Obama's legislative proposals are part of a preview of his Jan. 20 State of the Union address in which the Democrat will seek to highlight areas of common ground with Republicans who control the U.S. Congress.

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 (TGT.N) and Home Depot (HD.N).

More recently, Sony Pictures (6758.T) was hacked, an incident that Obama has blamed on North Korea.

"It’s one of those new challenges in our modern society that crosses the old divides - transcends politics, transcends ideology," Obama said.

Obama will meet congressional leaders on Tuesday, and cybersecurity will be on the agenda, Republican Senator John Thune, chairman of the Senate Commerce committee, said in a statement. Thune criticized Obama for not getting personally engaged on cybersecurity issues earlier.

Reporting by Roberta Rampton, Alina Selyukh, Jeff Mason; Editing by Grant McCool

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