On January 1, 2016, China’s National People’s Congress Standing Committee enacted the new Anti-Terrorism Law (反恐怖主义法) that gives broad powers to the Chinese authorities to access and handle data held by telecommunications operators and internet providers (together, “Technology Companies”). This law provides a legal framework to compel Technology Companies to cooperate and assist the Chinese authorities to combat the threat of “terrorism.”
On Wednesday, February 24, President Obama signed the Judicial Redress Act into law. “What it does in the simplest terms is makes sure that everybody’s data is protected in the strongest possible way with our privacy laws—not only American citizens, but also foreign citizens,” President Obama said at signing. “We take our privacy seriously. And along with our commitment to innovation, that’s one of the reasons that global companies and entrepreneurs want to do business here.” According to EU Commissioner Věra Jourová, “The signature of the Judicial Redress Act by President Obama is a historic achievement in our efforts to restore trust in transatlantic data flows . . . . It will strengthen privacy, while ensuring legal certainty for transatlantic data exchanges between police and criminal justice authorities. This is crucial to keep Europeans safe through efficient and robust cooperation between the EU and the U.S. in the fight against crime and terrorism.”
The Cybersecurity Act of 2015, which included the long anticipated Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act or CISA, was passed on December 18, 2015 to facilitate and encourage confidential two-way private sector sharing of cyberthreat information with the federal government. It also provided key liability shields for cyberthreat information sharing and network monitoring pursuant to the Act. Under the Cybersecurity Act, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) was designated to coordinate the sharing and was tasked with developing guidelines to facilitate implementation within 90 days.
Building upon its 2012 Consumer Protection Report, its 2014 report on Data Brokers, and a public workshop held on September 15, 2014, the FTC issued a new report on January 6, 2016, with recommendations to businesses on the growing use of big data: Big Data: A Tool for Inclusion or Exclusion? Understanding the Issues (“2016 Big Data Report”). Rather than focusing on prior themes of notice, choice, and security, the 2016 Big Data Report addresses only the commercial use of big data consisting of consumer information, and focuses on impacts of such big data uses on low-income and underserved populations.
When the California legislature closed out their 2015 session on September 11 of 2015, they sent three bills to Governor Jerry Brown proposing amendments to the state’s data breach laws which were all signed into law on October 6 and took effect January 1, 2016. The new laws address what license plate data automated readers may collect, defined encryption, and critically, made significant changes to the details of the required content and format of data breach notifications. S.B. 570 specified that data breach notices must be titled “Notice of Data Breach” and be broken into sections titled “What Happened,” “What Information Was Involved,” “What We Are Doing,” “What You Can Do” and “For More Information.” Notice formatting must be in at least 10-point font and call attention to the notice’s “nature and significance.” A model notification, which companies may use to comply with these content amendments, is also provided in the bill (see below). These formatting requirements would not be prohibited under other state breach notification laws, and so we will likely soon see this format become a de facto national standard for efficiency’s sake.
On December 18, President Obama signed into law an omnibus spending package for 2016 that included the Cybersecurity Act of 2015 (known in former versions as the Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act). After years of debate, the Cybersecurity Act establishes a framework to facilitate and encourage confidential two-way private sector sharing of cyberthreat information with the federal government and provides liability shields for cyberthreat information sharing, as well as for specific actions undertaken to defend or monitor corporate networks. The Cybersecurity Act also designates the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to coordinate cyberthreat information sharing.
The Cybersecurity Act has important implications for cooperation among industry participants and with regulatory agencies in development of effective cybersecurity programs. Public-private cyberthreat information sharing is an important step to improve companies’ defenses and responses to the changing cyberthreat landscape. Though the Act is effective immediately, the attorney general and DHS secretary must release guidelines within 90 days.
On Friday, December 4, President Obama signed the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (“FAST”) Act, a $300 billion-plus highway and transportation law and the first comprehensive transportation spending law in a decade. Despite its title, the bill impacts a number of regulated sectors. Nestled within this 490-page law are 13 pages that pertain to cybersecurity and other protections for the electric grid. As detailed below, the FAST Act also includes a number of privacy and cybersecurity provisions relating to privacy notices by financial institutions as required by the Gramm Leach Bliley Act, event data records in vehicles, Internet of Things technologies, and connected cars.
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.