R.I. Lawmakers Clear Bill to Strengthen Data Security, Breach Notice Measures

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By Martha Kessler and Katie W. Johnson

June 25 — Rhode Island lawmakers have cleared sweeping data security and breach notice amendments (S. 0134; H. 5220) to clarify required data security measures, expand protection to health data and information in paper form, set a 45-day notice deadline, require notification to the state attorney general for some breaches and raise penalties for willful violations of the proposed law.

If signed by Gov. Gina Raimondo (D), the bill would repeal and replace Rhode Island's 2005 breach notification law.

The law clarifies the scope of the required data security program. Companies and agencies would be required under the proposed law to implement “a risk-based information security program” with “reasonable security procedures and practices” appropriate to:

• the size and scope of the organization;

• the nature of the information; and

• the purpose for which the information was collected.


The bill also includes provisions to limit data retention to a period only as long as necessary and to properly destroy information when it is no longer retained.

“The intent of this legislation is to set standards and to protect that vital information from those who wish to do harm or profit from the most personal details of our lives,” Sen. Louis P. DiPalma (D), the Senate sponsor of the bill, said in a statement June 24.

Rep. Stephen R. Ucci (D), sponsor of the House bill, said in a statement issued following the June 24 vote that lawmakers “will probably have to update this legislation again in the future, but, for now, I believe this bill will provide Rhode Islanders with the best chance of keeping their personal information private, secure and away from those with malicious intentions.”

Tight Notice Deadline 

The bills address “ambiguities in the existing law, for instance clarifying that municipal agencies are subject to its provisions,” according to a statement by DiPalma's office. “It also specifies that those whose information was subject to the breach be notified no later than 45 calendar days after its discovery, instead of ‘in the most expedient time possible,' as the current law states, and includes information about what must be included in that notice.”

In addition, the bills would add a requirement to notify the state attorney general and major credit reporting agencies in the event that more than 500 Rhode Island residents had to be notified.

The amended law would also increase the penalty for knowing and willful violations to $200 per record and would remove the $25,000 cap for penalties.

The bills also would add “medical information, health insurance information and email addresses when acquired with their passwords or other access codes into the current definition of the ‘personal information' protected by the act,” DiPalma's office said.

The existing statute imposes notice requirements for breaches of unencrypted computerized personal information, while the amended law would require notice for breaches of paper containing personal data.

If the bill is enacted, for the first time the statute would include a definition of “encrypted” to require that data be in “a form in which there is a low probability of assigning meaning without use of a confidential process or key.”

If signed by the governor, the provisions of the legislation would take effect one year following the date of passage.

To contact the reporter on this story: Martha Kessler in Boston at mkessler@bna.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Donald G. Aplin at daplin@bna.com

Substitute B of S. 0314 is available at http://webserver.rilin.state.ri.us/BillText/BillText15/SenateText15/S0134B.pdf.

Substitute A of H. 5220 is available at http://webserver.rilin.state.ri.us/BillText/BillText15/HouseText15/H5220A.pdf.