Nearly 2 billion consumer records were stolen or accidentally exposed in the United States last year, including personal data on nearly half the U.S. population held by the Equifax credit agency. The data breaches raise questions about whether consumers’ information can be protected. Privacy advocates want lawmakers to adopt rules similar to those in Europe, which require consumer consent before companies can use or share data. Congress is considering bills that would penalize companies that conceal breaches and would educate consumers on how to better safeguard their data. But little action is expected because of disagreements over how much regulation is needed. Many Republicans warn that excessive regulation could harm online commerce, while most Democrats want greater business accountability. Technological developments make it more difficult ...

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