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What is the government doing to protect your personal information? Lawmakers want to talk about it


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Birth certificates, drivers licenses, social security numbers.

When it comes to the government, many times people don’t have a choice on what information they can and cannot hand over.

But, required information stored by government agencies can also make the government a target for hackers and security breaches, experts say.

That’s why lawmakers asked security professionals to testify Wednesday morning in Harrisburg to give their expertise on how to better protect the data the government has in its possession.

“We all hear in the news continually breach after breach after breach after breach. That tends to desensitize people,” said Clifford Shier, a security expert who works as the managing principal for Enterprise Solutions at Unisys.

Shier told FOX43 news, the government can become a target because of “the amount of information they have on you and for the length of time they’ve had that data.”

Shier told lawmakers to take into account both the security to protect the data and the privacy ruling what can be done with the data. He said, recent regulations across the nation are seeking to address the following questions:

– What was the intended purpose of the data?
– Is the data being used outside of what the intended purpose was?
– Who owns the data? Is it the individual or is it the organization that is holding and possessing that data?

“We have data that is out there and it is simply waiting for something to be used,” said Shier. He added, “It’s not a matter of sharing because we can. It’s a matter of sharing only because we should.”

York County State Senator Kristin Phillips-Hill is one of the lawmakers pushing Pennsylvania to tighten security. She said the state doesn’t have security or privacy laws in place that are doing what a lot of other states are doing.

“I think we have a great opportunity to enhance both data privacy and data security in the commonwealth of Pennsylvania and we unfortunately, are unfortunately, a little behind the eight ball in that regard,” she said.

But, she added, “we have multiple pieces of legislation and now we’re going to sit down and look at those various components that were laid out for us,” she said. She added the end goal is to “put together a bill that will get it all done.”

The hearing featured testimony from Senator Dan Laughlin (R-Erie) who is sponsoring a bill to update the state’s Breach of Personal Information Notification Act. It would require state agencies with a data breach to notify affected people within 7 days and it would require the state’s Office of Administration to retain a policy on the state’s storage of personally identifiable data.

“The most important thing we want to do is assure public trust in their government to what’s in their best interest,” she said.

Meantime, Shier told lawmakers there should be collaboration between the government and IT companies to ensure that any regulations put into place in the state are not so strict that people can’t comply to them.

An annual security index conducted by Unisys found that globally 69% of people said they have a serious concern of identity theft. In the United States, that number was 63%. Shier admits, sometimes people do not have a choice when it comes to handing over required information to the government. But, in their personal lives, he provides this advice.

“Look at how you’re sharing dta. Determine whether or not that data that you’re sharing is beneficial or it’s something you find very sensitive. If you find that the data that you’re sharing is sensitive or perhaps has a negative impact to you, you will feel a lot more strongly about keeping that data private,” he said. “Consider what is actually being shared and realize that down the line your life, which is hopefully a very long lifetime, there may be impacts of that data.”


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