FTC Mandates Non-Bank Financial Bodies to Report Data Breaches

by | Nov 2, 2023

In a major win for consumer protection, non-bank financial firms must now inform the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) about data breaches and other security incidents. This important initiative aims to promote transparency and accountability in the financial sector and ensure customers’ personal information is effectively protected.

The Amended Rule, unanimously approved by the Commission, gives a clear definition of “customer information” as non-public personal information about individuals who have used financial products or services for personal, family, or household purposes. This includes information provided during the acquisition of a product or service, information from financial transactions, and any other data obtained in connection with providing financial products or services.

Under the new regulation, financial firms must report a breach to the FTC as soon as possible, with a maximum time limit of 30 days after discovering it. The report, submitted electronically through the FTC’s website, should include the name and contact details of the firm, the number of affected customers, and a general description of the incident. The report must also specify the types of compromised information and the date or timeframe of the event.

To increase transparency, the FTC will publish information from the report in a publicly accessible database. This will help consumers stay informed about potential risks and encourage greater accountability in the financial industry.

This notification requirement complements the amendments made to the Safeguards Rule in December 2021, which aimed to strengthen cybersecurity practices in financial firms. These amendments were inspired by cybersecurity regulations implemented by the New York Department of Financial Services.

It’s important to note that the unauthorized acquisition of unencrypted customer information, including cases where the encryption key was accessed without permission, triggers the notification requirement. However, there are exemptions for “blind data” without personal identifiers or publicly available information.

According to the amendment, a notification event is considered “discovered” from the first day the financial firm becomes aware of it. Taking immediate action is therefore crucial in reducing the potential harm caused by data breaches.

Financial firms are considered to have knowledge of a notification event if any employee, officer, or agent becomes aware of it. This ensures that the responsibility for reporting breaches is shared across the organization, fostering a culture of vigilance and accountability.

Additionally, the report should indicate if law enforcement authorities have determined that public notification would hinder an investigation or compromise national security. This exception strikes a delicate balance between protecting consumers and preserving the integrity of ongoing investigations or national security interests.

The FTC’s requirement for non-bank financial firms to report data breaches is a significant step toward enhancing cybersecurity measures in the industry. By ensuring prompt and transparent reporting, this new rule aims to protect customers’ personal information and maintain trust in the financial sector.

The amendments to the Safeguards Rule, along with the obligation to report breaches, emphasize the importance of strong data protection practices and the need for continuous improvement in cybersecurity measures. These measures will help financial firms adapt to the evolving threat landscape and keep up with emerging technologies that may pose security risks.

In conclusion, the FTC’s mandate for non-bank financial firms to report data breaches represents a groundbreaking development for consumer protection. This requirement highlights the importance of transparency and accountability in safeguarding customers’ personal information. By promptly reporting breaches and sharing relevant details, financial firms can strive to maintain the trust and confidence of their customers while helping the industry adapt to the ever-changing cybersecurity landscape.