A recent ALJ Initial Decision may prove significant in data breach litigation and provide further aid to companies battling class actions with claims of future injury through identity theft. On November 13, 2015, the administrative law judge hearing the FTC’s action against medical testing laboratory LabMD dismissed the FTC’s case in its entirety. See In re LabMD, Inc., F.T.C. ALJ, No. 9357 (Nov. 13, 2015). The action had its genesis in an investigation of LabMD’s security practices. The investigation began after a report that information from LabMD may have been disclosed on a file-sharing website. The FTC asserted that LabMD had failed to properly protect sensitive data and that information gleaned from its records was being used for identity theft purposes.
On November 5, 2015, the Federal Communications Commission (“FCC” or “Commission”) issued its first ever privacy or data security enforcement order against a cable provider, Cox Communications, Inc. (“Cox”). The order adopted a consent decree entered into with the company, fining the company $595,000 for the breach. The order sets out that in August 2014, a hacker used social engineering tactics, or “pretexting,” to impersonate someone from Cox’s information technology department in a phishing scheme to successfully convince a Cox contractor to enter an account ID and password into a fake website which the hackers controlled. Without multi-factor authentication in place for the targeted systems, the hacker and an accomplice were able to use those captured credentials to obtain the personal information and /or Customer Proprietary Network Information (“CPNI”) of 54 current and seven former customers. Cox notified the FBI of the breach, but did not notify the FCC through the Commission’s breach-reporting portal.
On October 29, 2015, the European Parliament adopted a resolution on the electronic mass surveillance of EU citizens (the “Resolution”). Positioned as a follow-up to its resolution of 12 March 2014 in which the Parliament called for the immediate suspension of Safe Harbor and put forward a number of recommendations to limit access to personal data of European citizens as part of mass surveillance, the Resolution calls on the European Commission to “reflect immediately on alternatives to Safe Harbor and on the impact of the judgment [from the Court of Justice of the European Union in the Schrems case] on any other instruments for the transfer of personal data to the U.S.” It also calls for the European Commission to “report on the matter by the end of 2015.” In addition, the European Parliament demanded that the Commission urgently provide an update on the ongoing negotiations between US authorities and the Commission.
Cybersecurity attacks have increasingly garnered significant attention this summer—and financial regulators are taking notice and taking action. Earlier in August, the Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC”) announced the indictment of nine players in a major hacking ring. The ring was designed to obtain corporate announcements prior to their public release, to give purchasers of the illegally obtained information an edge in securities trading. The attack combined old-school securities fraud with new-school cybercrime, and served as a reminder of financial markets’ potential vulnerabilities from the ingenuity of cybercriminals.
In an effort to address growing concerns about security vulnerabilities in both the public and private sectors, the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) has released a flurry of new and updated information security recommendations. The latest recommendations address protections for sensitive data held by federal contractors, encryption standards, and security for federal Smart ID cards.
An already active TCPA class action bar is sure to become even more active after a significant Declaratory Ruling and Order from the FCC that, among other points, broadened what technologies may be considered autodialers, gave further strength to class actions based on reassigned cell numbers, and muddied the waters for constructing compliance mechanisms to support consumer revocation of consent.
On July 10, 2015, the Federal Communications Commission issued a declaratory ruling to resolve various concerns raised by 21 petitions regarding the Commission’s implementation of the Telephone Consumer Protection Act, which carries a $500 penalty for each call or text in violation.
New legislation out of Hartford means that Connecticut joins Massachusetts in imposing strict state requirements for data protection. S.B. 949. Additionally, the new law amends Connecticut’s data breach notification law, making Connecticut the first in the nation to affirmatively require entities that experience a reportable data breach to offer free credit monitoring to residents affected by the breach. The legislation further imposes significant new requirements on health insurers, as well as contractors that receive confidential information from state agencies, to maintain minimum data security protections. While health insurers have until 2017 to come into full compliance, the requirements for state contractors are effective as of July 1, 2015.
The National Telecommunications and Information Administration (“NTIA”), housed within the U.S. Commerce Department, has been facilitating a multistakeholder process to develop privacy safeguards for the commercial use of facial recognition technology since December of 2013—with the first in person meeting held in February 2014. NTIA seeks to create a voluntary, enforceable code of conduct applying the administration’s privacy framework, including its proposed Consumer Privacy Bill of Rights, to facial recognition technology in a commercial context. After a little over a year in talks, and shortly after the NTIA’s 12th meeting, the process has broken down. On Monday, June 15, a joint statement signed by representatives of multiple privacy advocacy groups, including the Center for Democracy and Technology, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, Consumer Watchdog and the ACLU, declared that they “have decided to withdraw from further negotiations” because the process has been unable to elicit agreement “on any concrete scenario where companies should employ facial recognition only with a consumer’s permission.” The joint statement further argues that “[t]he position that companies never need to ask permission to use biometric identification is at odds with consumer expectations, current industry practices, as well as existing state law.”
Although a frequent topic of discussion on Capitol Hill, no single standard for private-sector cybersecurity programs has yet to emerge. The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) Cybersecurity Framework is often considered foremost among existing guidance, but several other agencies are also expressing views, including the following recent guidance from the Department of Justice (DOJ), the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). Significantly, both the DOJ and FTC tout the advantages of cooperating with law enforcement after a data breach by noting that such cooperation may lead to “regulatory” benefits.