SC House Struggles to Balance Costs, Benefits of Protecting Taxpayers’ Information

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A state Senate bill to provide more computer security
for South Carolina taxpayers is having a tough time in the House, as House
members worry about the costs and benefits of protecting your
The state is providing one year of free credit
monitoring for taxpayers after someone hacked into the computer files at the
state Department of Revenue last year, stealing the personal information of more
than 6 million taxpayers, dependents and businesses.
But now lawmakers are trying to figure out how to best
extend that protection.
The Senate-passed bill would provide taxpayers with ten
years of protection. The House version would make it five years.
But Rep. Harry
Ott, D-St.Matthews, a member of the House committee working on the bill, says,
“I don't believe it's smart on the part of the state of South Carolina to pass a
law that says we're going to give you five years of protection and we have no
idea what those five years of protection are going to cost.”
The bill simply
says the state will provide that protection, but the state hasn't gotten bids
yet on how much that would cost.
State taxpayers have already shelled out $20 million
because of the hacking: $12 million to Experian for the one year of credit
monitoring for taxpayers and $8 million for immediate computer security
The bills lawmakers are working on would also create a
new Division of State Information Security, an Identity Theft Unit with the
Department of Consumer Affairs, and a Technology Investment Council and Joint
Information Security Oversight Committee. All that will also cost taxpayers
Rep. Jim Merrill, R-Daniel Island, another member of the
House Ways and Means Committee, says he doesn't like the idea of creating more
state government.
“We're hearing numbers anywhere from $18 million a year to $25
million a year, and that doesn't even count start-up. Then you also look at the
agencies that are being created and affected, and then whether those agencies
all talk to one another and what sort of information needs to be protected. And
then on the backside, what happens and who's liable if something does happen? So
none of that's been decided and it's not an easy fix.”
Rep. Ott says the new protection for taxpayers needs to
do more than the current year of free credit monitoring.
“Some people look at this and say, 'Well, most of the
things we think we are buying isn't protection. All this is to monitor your
credit. And if somebody does open a credit account in your name using your
information, we'll notify you.' Well that's not really protection, because that
didn't stop them from opening that account in the first place. So yes, it's
monitoring, but is it, in fact, protection? And I'm not convinced the path that
we are choosing offers our citizens the protection I believe they deserve,” he

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