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House Bill 5 would give Kentuckians cybersecurity protection they deserve

By BEN CHANDLER

There once was a time in Kentucky where family dinners were constantly interrupted by aggressive telemarketers. Families couldn't get more than a few moments of peace on weekends and evenings from the continuous barrage of unwanted and aggravating sales pitches coming over the phone.

I was Kentucky's Attorney General then and I decided to do something about it. We built a broad bipartisan consensus and implemented the No-Call List, guaranteeing Kentuckians the right to not be bothered by telemarketers. We fought for legislation to restrict the practice and the result has been nearly two decades of quieter evenings at home.

I made that fight because protecting families from the scourge of telemarketers was an important public protection measure of that time. In our digital age, cybersecurity and breach notifications represent the new frontier of public protection.

Concerned about the personal and private information your retailer collects on you? The data collected in your interaction with government at every level ought to concern you even more.

Consider that nearly all governments have your name, birth date and Social Security numbers. As you file taxes your bank account numbers and business identification numbers are recorded. If you use a credit card to pay for your vehicle registration or rent a cabin at a state park, those numbers are collected. Public schools and health departments also are enormous collectors of private information, from your children's allergies to personal health records. The list literally goes on and on, building the case that governments are far and away the largest collectors of private information.

For the really bad news, hackers are trying to steal that information every day. In 2009 in Bullitt County, Ukrainian hackers stole $400,000 from the county's bank account. In 2012, state government inadvertently posted on its public website the Social Security and home phone numbers, as well as the birth dates of a couple hundred Kentucky employees. In 2012, the state of South Carolina lost nearly every citizen's personal and corporate income tax filings to Russian hackers. What would have cost $12,000 to prevent has now cost South Carolinians more than $30 million to clean up.

I'm strongly supportive of the good work my friend State Auditor Adam Edelen is doing, particularly his focus on cybersecurity. His common-sense approach to strengthening cyber protections for every Kentuckian is represented in House Bill 5.

House Bill 5 is simply based on the premise that governments ought to strengthen the protections for your personal and private information and that when they lose that information through a breach, governments ought to be obligated to inform you.

House Bill 5 enjoys the support of more than 30 organizations representing everyone from senior citizens and business leaders to county and city governments. The libertarian Bluegrass Institute calls it a "no-brainer." That broad coalition is also reflected in the state House where it passed 99-1, with 79 co-sponsors (43 Democrats and 36 Republicans).

The bill appears to be stymied in the state Senate with both the majority leader and the relevant committee chairman acknowledging that politics plays a role in determining whether House Bill 5 will get a vote.

That's unfortunate. State Auditor Adam Edelen and Representatives Denny Butler, Democrat of Louisville, and Sal Santoro, Republican of Florence, have worked hard to advance this measure in a bipartisan manner. More importantly, Kentuckians deserve the same cyber protections that citizens in 46 other states enjoy.

We fought politics-as-usual to protect Kentuckians from intrusions into their privacy before. Let's not miss this opportunity to do it again in the digital age.

Kentuckians who agree or want to learn more can at www.HouseBill5.com.

Ben Chandler is a former State Auditor and Attorney General representing the Commonwealth of Kentucky. He is also a former United States congressman.

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