Join us for a discussion of hot topics in Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and state consumer protection enforcement. Partners Bret Cohen, Meghan Rissmiller, and Steven Steinborn will cover recent developments and enforcement trends in data privacy/security, advertising/endorsements, and claim substantiation in practice before the FTC and state authorities.
Major companies, health care organizations and government agencies are facing a wave of cyberattacks involving ransomware that takes control of computers and denies access until a ransom is paid. These attacks are occurring on a global scale and in some cases are having a significant impact on business and healthcare operations. The cyberattack has disrupted targets throughout the world from Britain’s National Health Service to US Fortune 500 companies, the Russian Foreign Ministry, and universities in China.
On 27 April 2017 the German Parliament passed an entirely new Federal Data Protection Act. The new BDSG replaces the old BDSG, which has been in force for the last 40 years. The new BDSG shall adapt the German law to the provisions of the EU General Data Protection Regulation. The new BDSG will now form the basis for the adaption of German acts to the GDPR. Further acts concerning special processing situations like social security data protection are likely to follow.
The Federal Trade Commission and National Highway Traffic Safety Administration are co-hosting a workshop on June 28, 2017, to explore the privacy and security issues raised by automated and connected vehicle technologies. The agencies are looking to explore the types of data such technologies collect, store, transmit, and share; the potential benefits and challenges posed by the technologies; the privacy and security practices of vehicle manufacturers; the roles that federal agencies should play in regulating privacy and security issues; and how self-regulatory standards apply to connected vehicle privacy and security issues. In advance of the workshop, the FTC and NHTSA are seeking public comment on privacy and security issues. Comments may be submitted through April 20, 2017.
As previously reported, on Thursday, March 9th, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) hosted a forum on the consumer implications of recent developments in artificial intelligence (AI) and blockchain technologies. This is the second of two entries on the March 9th FinTech Forum and focuses on the discussions surrounding blockchain technologies, in which panelists reflected on the nascent stage of the technology, industry representatives expressed confusion over the applicability of current regulation, and regulators expressed a lack of clarity over jurisdictional questions.
On Thursday, March 9th, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) hosted a forum on the consumer implications of recent developments in artificial intelligence (AI) and blockchain technologies. The FTC acknowledged the benefits of technological developments in AI and blockchain technologies, but stressed that advancements in these technologies must be coupled with an awareness of and active engagement in identifying and minimizing associated risks. This blog post focuses on the AI discussion, which addressed how the values of privacy, autonomy, and fairness are affected by the advent of AI systems as well as how to ensure safety and security in the development and deployment of individual and connected AI systems.
The Federal Communications Commission’s Media Relations Office has released a statement announcing Chairman Pai’s intention to stay a data security rule adopted by the Commission late last year in its Broadband Privacy Order. Absent a stay, the rule is set to go into effect on March 2.
On January 12, 2017, prior to the new administration taking power, the National Telecommunications and Information Administration within the Department of Commerce released a Green Paper on “Fostering the Advancement of the Internet of Things,” which assesses the technological and policy landscape of the Internet of Things. The Green Paper is expansive in scope, reflecting the broad range of issues raised in comments submitted by stakeholders in the private sector, academia, government, and civil society following NTIA’s April 2016 request for public comment. The Green Paper identifies key issues, and provides recommendations and assessments on the potential benefits and risks that IoT portends. The NTIA identifies cybersecurity, privacy and cross-border data flows as the most significant policy issues. It also proposes four principles for future policy engagement in which the Department would play a central role in creating conditions that would foster IoT growth. The agency also requested additional comments on the issues raised by the Green Paper.
On January 23, 2017, fourteen months after hosting a workshop to review the multi-device, multi-platform digital landscape, the FTC issued a staff report on cross-device tracking summarizing the FTC’s 2015 workshop and providing a set of related recommendations. In this post, we look at the FTC’s previous advice on cross-device tracking, key takeaways from the FTC report, and how the guidance aligns with the Digital Advertising Alliance’s (DAA) self-regulatory principles for cross-device tracking, which become enforceable on February 1, 2017.
In June 2015, the Federal Trade Commission held a workshop on The “Sharing” Economy: Issues Facing Platforms, Participants, and Regulators. The Commission also solicited public comments on the topic, receiving more than 2,000 comments in response. On 17 November, the Commission issued a report summarizing the issues explored in the workshop and the public comments. The report emphasized that the workshop (and its ensuing summary) was not intended “as a precursor to law enforcement” but “an opportunity to learn more” about this rapidly evolving business model and to aid “the Commission, as well as regulators, consumer groups, platforms, participants using the platforms, incumbent firms, and others” to address the unique issues raised by sharing economy platforms.
Ever since the first draft of the EU-US Privacy Shield framework was published in early 2016, groups opposed to the idea have indicated their intent to challenge the legality of the framework under EU law. Recently, the privacy advocacy group Digital Rights Ireland made good on that promise. Following the filing of a formal complaint on 15 September asking for an annulment of the framework by the Court of Justice of the European Union, DRI has now made public the details of its complaint.
The Federal Communication Commission’s long-awaited – and much debated – privacy rules for Internet Service Providers have now been adopted. The agency approved the rules by a 3-2 vote along political party lines last Thursday. Several of the FCC requirements are particularly notable for being more restrictive than the Federal Trade Commission’s standards for consumer online privacy. In this post we provide an overview of some of the new FCC rules and highlight key areas where the FCC’s requirements diverge from the FTC’s framework.
Close followers of the cases FTC v. Wyndham Worldwide Corp. and In the Matter of LabMD know that the litigation has prompted increased Congressional oversight of the Federal Trade Commission’s data security enforcement practices. Prior to Wyndham and LabMD, Congressional debates on the FTC’s data security practices centered on whether the Commission should have additional tools to address these issues, including traditional rulemaking authority to create new data security rules, civil penalty authority to fine violators, or authority over the activities of non-profit entities. To the extent Congress questioned the FTC’s enforcement decisions in this pre- Wyndham and LabMD era, those inquires typically focused on the length of time of FTC settlement agreements, while relatively little attention was paid to how the Commission provided notice of its data security standards or how the Commission chose its enforcement targets. Wyndham and LabMD fundamentally shifted this debate.
On October 13, the Federal Trade Commission held a workshop on drone privacy and cybersecurity as part of its Fall Technology Series. Close watchers of the drone privacy debate would recognize the arguments presented at the FTC workshop as reminiscent of the comprehensive and productive debate over drone privacy played out before the National Telecommunications and Information Administration earlier this year. The NTIA process concluded with the release of Best Practices for drone privacy supported by a diverse group of industry members and civil society representatives. Although the FTC’s workshop was in many ways a reprise of the NTIA multi-stakeholder debate, the workshop was notable insofar as the public gained new insights into FTC staff views on drone privacy and cybersecurity.
Some of the largest cyber attacks in recent memory have employed an army of connected home devices to achieve their goals. This co-opting of connected home devices owned by consumers around the world occurs without those consumers’ knowledge or consent. For example, in mid-September, several thousand devices—home routers, Internet-connected video cameras, and digital video recorders—were used to create a “botnet” that collectively pounded the security researcher Brian Krebs’ website with 620 gigabits of data per second. At the time, the attack was thought to be the largest in history. An even larger army was assembled a few days later for an attack on the French hosting provider OVH that peaked at over one terabit of traffic per second. These distributed denial-of-service attacks were successful because they exploited basic security vulnerabilities in connected home devices, such as default passwords used to access administrator settings.
This week, the Online Trust Alliance turned its attention from manufacturers to consumers by releasing a checklist of basic steps that consumers can take to improve the privacy and security “hygiene” of their connected home and wearable devices. Just as smoke detectors require periodic battery changes, the OTA warns that IoT devices also benefit from regular checkups.
On August 29, 2016, the Federal Aviation Administration’s long-awaited small unmanned aircraft systems rule went into effect, for the first time broadly authorizing commercial drone operations. This is a positive step, as drones have great safety and efficiency benefits for the public. Nevertheless, the American public remains concerned about drone privacy issues.
The FTC today announced a request for public comment on the Standards for Safeguarding Consumer Information Rule. The FTC promulgated the Safeguards Rule in 2002, implementing Title V of the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act , which required federal agencies to establish standards for the administrative, technical, and physical safeguards employed by financial institutions for certain information. In addition to general requests for comment, the FTC requested that five specific issues be addressed, which we have outlined below. Comments are due by November 7, 2016.
On July 25, 2016, Hogan Lovells hosted a Silicon Valley dinner as part of its 2025 dinner series. The theme of the dinner was “I’m from Mars, You’re from Venus: The Tech Community and its Future Relationship with Government”. The discussion, moderated by Deirdre Mulligan of UC, Berkeley, focused on the tech community’s view of regulatory, law enforcement and national security issues, here in the U.S., as well as in Europe; and how the tech industry will be impacted by the upcoming U.S. elections as well as Brexit.
In a case that could have far-reaching implications for how companies are held liable for data security lapses, the FTC issued an order and opinion unanimously overturning its Chief Administrative Law Judge’s (ALJ) November 2015 dismissal of charges that LabMD’s allegedly lax data security measures were unfair practices under Section 5 of the FTC Act (see our coverage of […]
The U.S. Department of Education and Department of Justice recently weighed in on the obligations of school districts, colleges, and universities to provide civil rights protections for transgender students. On May 13, 2016, the Departments issued a Dear Colleague Letter that summarizes the responsibilities of school districts, colleges, and universities that receive federal financial assistance under the Departments’ interpretation of federal law, including Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 and the Family Education Rights and Privacy Act. Here, we focus on the DCL’s guidance pertinent to compliance with FERPA.
A three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit today unanimously reversed a lower court’s denial of Microsoft’s motion to quash a warrant seeking the content of emails for a customer of its Outlook.com email service. The decision is surprising in that that U.S. courts, including the Second Circuit, have traditionally enforced government process seeking documents or data stored abroad from entities that have control over the information under the test of “control, not location.” This case could have a significant impact on cloud providers’ decisions to store information abroad. It also serves, in the midst of debates about the newly enacted Privacy Shield and the recent challenge to Standard Contractual Clauses now before the Court of Justice of the European Union, as a counterbalance to arguments that some make about the U.S. legal system not respecting personal privacy.
On Monday, May 16, 2016, the Supreme Court of the United States issued its highly anticipated opinion in Spokeo, Inc. v. Robins, a case that examined the question of whether a plaintiff who sued for a technical violation of the Fair Credit Reporting Act could maintain Article III standing for a class action without claiming any real-world injury. The case before the Court involved a putative class action brought against petitioner Spokeo, Inc., a company that generates profiles about people based on information obtained though computerized searches. Respondent Thomas Robins was one of the people with a profile on Spokeo’s website. According to Robins, the information on that profile was inaccurate. Robins filed a class-action complaint against Spokeo in federal court, alleging violations of the FCRA, which requires consumer reporting agencies to “follow reasonable procedures to assure maximum possible accuracy of” consumer reports. The Ninth Circuit held that by alleging the violation of a statutory right Robins had satisfied the injury-in-fact requirement of Article III standing.
On April 5, 2016, the National Telecommunications and Information Administration initiated an inquiry to review the potential benefits and challenges presented by the Internet of Things. In its Notice and request for public comment (RFC), NTIA is seeking input on the current IoT technological and policy landscape with a goal of developing recommendations—in the form of a Green Paper—as to whether and how the federal government should play a role in fostering the advancement of IoT technologies.
On March 15, 2016, the Federal Trade Commission reached an agreement with Lord & Taylor to settle charges that the luxury department store brand engaged in allegedly deceptive native advertising practices by failing to disclose and accurately represent its relationship to online magazines and fashion “influencers” who promoted the brand. This latest enforcement action follows the FTC’s release of a policy statement on native advertising practices and a companion set of guidelines for businesses. The action provides a cautionary tale with practical lessons about the importance of transparency in marketing strategies that mimic the look and feel of surrounding content.