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Obama Calls for Better Cybersecurity Laws

President Obama on the phone with Tunisian president Beji Caid Essebsi. Photo from whitehouse.gov.

President Obama on the phone with Tunisian president Beji Caid Essebsi. Photo from whitehouse.gov.

President Obama has a new cybersecurity initiative, which he's outlining in a series of speeches this week leading up to his State of the Union address on Jan. 20. Among his proposals is a law that would require companies to disclose any security breaches within 30 days of detecting the intrusion.

In the first of these speeches, held today (Jan. 12) at the Federal Trade Commission, the president also called for laws that would protect the personal information of students, and outline a bill of rights for consumers.

MORE: Easy Ways to Stop NSA Spying on Your Smartphone

Ever since the payment-card breach at Target locations just over a year ago, retail data breaches have been high on everyone's radar. But currently there's no federal law requiring companies to inform their customers of breaches in a timely manner — only an uneven smattering of state laws.

Several officials, including Attorney General Eric Holder, have been calling for a federal data breach disclosure law for almost a year. Now Obama is throwing his weight behind the cause as well. Obama's proposed legislation would also make it illegal to sell customer identity data abroad, which is usually the end result of a data breach. Obama also called for consumers to have better access to credit scores.

Obama's other cybersecurity proposals include a Student Digital Privacy Act, under which personal information gathered from students in educational contexts could only be used for educational purposes, and not sold to advertising companies. 

"Whether they are texting or tweeting, or on Facebook, or Instagram, or Vine, our children are meeting up, and they are growing up, in cyberspace. It is all-pervasive," said Obama in his speech today. "And Michelle and I are like parents everywhere: we want to make sure that our children are being smart and safe online. That's a responsibility of ours as parents. But we need partners."

In addition, Obama is calling on Congress to pass a legislative version of the White House's Consumer Privacy Bill of Rights, a 2012 document arguing that consumers have the right to choose when and how their personal information is used by online companies.

Tomorrow (Jan. 13), Obama will visit the Department of Homeland Security, and urge the public and private sectors to collaborate and share information pertaining to security tools and threats.

On the same day that Obama kicked off his cybersecurity initiative, a group claiming to represent ISIS took control of the US Central Command's Twitter and YouTube channels.

Jill Scharr is a staff writer for Tom's Guide, where she regularly covers security, 3D printing and video games. You can follow Jill on Twitter @JillScharr and on Google+. Follow us @tomsguide, on Facebook and on Google+.