Heartbleed. EBay. Target. Michaels. Neiman Marcus. Lately, it seems that every few weeks consumers hear about yet another data breach that has put their personal information at risk.

To help agents, brokers, associations and multiple listing services navigate how to best safeguard their clients’ private information, the National Association of Realtors has launched a four-hour data security and privacy online training course offered through its Realtor University.

“Realtors handle sensitive consumer data in the course of their business and should be aware [of] the various ways to protect their clients’ data,” NAR said.

The course costs $39 and is meant to educate attendees about their legal responsibilities, including providing information about relevant state laws and pending federal regulations.

NAR acknowledges that consumers “are demanding increased transparency and control of how their data is used,” and is tracking several bills on data privacy and security. The trade group’s lobbying staff is “working to ensure that any future privacy law takes into account the burden on small businesses and is narrowly tailored to reduce its impact on members.”

Privacy and data security “will remain a hot topic in this Congress and on the regulatory front,” NAR says, as the Federal Trade Commission and Commerce Department “continue to focus on the issue as a top priority.”

In a 2012 report, the Federal Trade Commission said it would work with the Department of Commerce to develop voluntary, industry-specific codes of conduct that could provide businesses that adopt them with a “safe harbor” from regulation.

In addition to increased industry self-regulation, in 2010 the Commerce Department called on lawmakers to create a “consumer privacy bill of rights,” an idea endorsed in a May 1 White House report on big data and privacy.

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