Target to Take Road Trip to Washington for Data Breach Hearing

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Target (NYSE:TGT) has agreed to take a field trip from Minneapolis to Washington, D.C., next month, but we wouldn’t exactly call it a vacation. Reuters reported Thursday that Target has agreed to come before Congress in early February to testify about its data breach that resulted in the theft of about 40 million credit and debit card records, as well as 70 million other records with customer information.

The commerce, manufacturing, and trade subcommittee of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce said in a statement Thursday that a hearing will be conducted to determine the cause of the data breaches and their effect on Target customers.

The retailer will provide representation for the hearing set for February, and law enforcement officials and others are also expected to be present. The subcommittee, headed by Rep. Lee Terry, has approached the U.S. Secret Service about also participating, as the group has lead the investigation into Target’s security breach and a similar incident concerning Neiman Marcus. It’s still unclear whether the government agency will be present.

Reuters reported that, according to Terry, the main objective of the hearing will be to examine how consumers were affected by the data breach, as well as determine what retailers can do in the future to protect themselves from such damaging invasions.

Target, TJX Cos. (NYSE:TJX), and Neiman Marcus have all suffered large-scale data thefts, and Washington recognizes the need to prevent similar data intrusions in the future. Terry said, per Reuters, ”By examining these recent breaches and their consequences on consumers, we hope to gain a better understanding of the nature of these crimes and what steps can be taken to further protect information and limit cyber threats.”

It became clear that Target executives would probably need to pack their bags for Washington earlier this week, when Democratic lawmakers called for a congressional inquiry into the Target security breach on Monday; Senate Democrats made a similar request only the week before.

The Democratic lawmakers’ request asked the Financial Services Committee of the U.S. House of Representatives to look into the breach, and the request issued hope that reviewing current consumer protection laws would help determine what needs to be done to avoid compromises of consumers’ card information in the future.

It is not expected that the reviews will result in any kind of action or legislation on the part of Target, and because the retailer is still in the thick of its own investigation, it is unlikely any data regarding how the breach occurred will be made available. However, the hearing is expected to be helpful in the way it draws conclusions over the necessary security precautions that need to be taken by retailers and how consumers can maintain confidence moving forward.

It is also possible that other retailers have suffered similar breaches but have not reported them, Reuters pointed out in its report. The news service says no federal laws exist that dictate how companies must report data breaches to customers and law enforcement agencies. The lack of federal regulations could thus be a topic of conversation in Washington next month, but that remains to be seen.