Recent changes to Chinese law have broad implications on cross-border data transfer in the course of investigations conducted by non-Chinese regulators. Clients work closely with counsel to navigate potential legal landmines in any defense of an investigation involving data from China.
Just over six months ago, on March 24, 2020, the People’s Republic of China’s (PRC) revised Securities Law (revised on December 28, 2019) (中华⼈民共和国证券法（2019年修订) went into effect. While the revised Securities Law affects many aspects of China’s securities law framework (including the registration of new securities for initial public offerings, disclosure requirements, and investor protection rules), a new “blocking” provision is particularly notable. Specifically, Article 177 of the revised Securities Law prohibits non-Chinese securities regulators from conducting investigations within China and prevents Chinese individuals and entities from providing information to such regulators without first receiving approval from the China Securities Regulatory Commission and/or other competent departments under the State Council.
On October 1, 2020, the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) published an advisory that highlights the risk of potential U.S. sanctions law violations if U.S. individuals and businesses comply with ransomware payment demands.1
Ransomware attacks use malware, often injected through phishing schemes, to encrypt a victim’s data files or programs, followed by a ransom demand by the threat actor that offers the decryption key in exchange for payment. Payment is often demanded in bitcoin, and thus third-party services are often used to make such payments. Increasingly, ransomware attacks not only lock data up but steal data from the victim and threaten to publish sensitive files belonging to victims. According to OFAC, ransomware attacks have been increasing over the last two years and are a special risk during the COVID-19 pandemic, with cybercriminals targeting not only large corporations but also small to medium enterprises, hospitals, schools, and local government agencies.2
On September 28, the U.S. government released a “White Paper” addressing how U.S. companies might justify their continued transfer to the U.S. of personal data of EU residents, following the decision of the Court of Justice of the European Union (“CJEU,” or “ECJ”) in Schrems II – more formally known as Data Protection Commissioner v. Facebook Ireland and Maximillian Schrems, Case C-311/18 (July 16, 2020). The Schrems II decision struck down the EU-U.S. Privacy Shield as a basis for transferring EU personal data to the United States because of the Court’s view that U.S. national security law did not provide equivalent privacy protections to those available in the EU. While the CJEU upheld Commission-approved Standard Contractual Clauses (“SCCs”) as a basis for transfers of EU personal data to the U.S., the Court imposed significant new hurdles for the use of SCCs.
*This article was adapted from “Global Overview,” appearing in The Privacy, Data Protection and Cybersecurity Law Review (7th Ed. 2020)(Editor Alan Charles Raul), published by Law Business Research Ltd., and first published by the International Association of Privacy Professionals Privacy Perspectives series on September 28, 2020.
Privacy, like everything else in 2020, was dominated by the COVID-19 pandemic. Employers and governments have been required to consider privacy in adjusting workplace practices to account for who has a fever and other symptoms, who has traveled where, who has come into contact with whom, and what community members have tested positive or been exposed.
As a result of all this need for tracking and tracing, governments and citizens alike have recognized the inevitable trade-offs between exclusive focus on privacy versus exclusive focus on public health and safety.
On September 15, 2020, the U.S. Department of the Treasury published a final rule modifying the types of foreign investments that would trigger a mandatory filing before the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS). The final rule largely tracks a proposed rule published by CFIUS on May 21, 2020. The final rule will come into effect on October 15, 2020, and will apply only to transactions that take place on or after that date. It is not retroactive.
Posting revised August 13, 2020
On July 2, 2020, Sidley partner Alan Raul, founder and co-head of Sidley’s Privacy and Cybersecurity practice, hosted Adam Klein, Chairman of the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board (“PCLOB” or “the Board”), for a Monitor-Side Chat.
The discussion focused largely on the Commission’s work since Mr. Klein became Chairman in October, 2018. Key topics of the chat included:
- Mission, Operation and Access of PCLOB
- Balancing Counter-Terrorism and Privacy
- Comparison of U.S. and Foreign Checks and Balances
- FISA Reform
- Emerging Technologies
In a decision with significant implications for international trade and cross-border data flows, the EU’s highest court – the Court of Justice of the European Union (“CJEU”) ruled on 16 July 2020 that a key legal mechanism (called the EU-US Privacy Shield program) used to enable transfers of personal data from the European Union (“EU”) was invalid, while also potentially requiring additional protections to be implemented when another key transfer mechanism (called Standard Contractual Clauses) is used. The case – Data Protection Commissioner v. Facebook Ireland, Max Schrems (“Schrems II”) – considered the validity of the EU-US Privacy Shield (“Privacy Shield”) program (a privacy certification made available for US organizations through an agreement between the European Commission and the US government) and Standard Contractual Clauses (“SCC”) (a form of international data transfer agreement made available for use by the European Commission).
On May 18, 2020, the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN), as part of its COVID-19-related response, issued a Notice Related to the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) reminding financial institutions of certain Bank Secrecy Act (BSA) obligations and pertinent information regarding reporting COVID-19-related criminal and suspicious activity (the Notice). Contemporaneously, FinCEN issued an Advisory on Medical Scams Related to the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) (the Advisory).
In light of the Notice and Advisory, firms should (a) continue to comply with their BSA obligations; (b) include COVID-19 detail only when that detail relates to the reported suspicious activity; (c) review policies and procedures to notify and to provide COVID-19 information to government agencies, including verification of the requesting agency; (d) review the Advisory red flags related to medical scams; and (e) consider revising policies and procedures as appropriate.
COVID-19-related frauds are a special emphasis for law enforcement and regulatory agencies, so failing to detect and report those issues could be viewed as a significant flaw in a firm’s anti-money laundering (AML) program.
The U.S. Departments of State, the Treasury and Homeland Security and the Federal Bureau of Investigation issued a joint advisory (the Advisory) on April 15, 2020, discussing the threat to the international community posed by cyberattacks linked to the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (North Korea), in particular highlighting concerns for the financial services sector. North Korea has been subjected to comprehensive international sanctions implemented to pressure its government to denuclearize. The U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) has implemented additional unilateral sanctions in response to other North Korean activities, including cyberattacks, human rights violations and money laundering. In addition to broad prohibitions on trade with North Korea, U.S. sanctions bar domestic financial institutions from conducting or facilitating any significant transaction in connection with trade with North Korea or on behalf of any person whose property has been blocked under executive orders imposing sanctions on North Korea. Foreign financial institutions risk secondary sanctions for engaging in the same. (more…)
On January 31, 2020, the Department of Defense released its latest version of the Cybersecurity Maturity Model Certification (“CMMC”) for defense contractors. Under the CMMC plan, DOD contractors will be required to obtain a cybersecurity rating from Level 1 through Level 5. Self-certification will not be permitted. Given the significant investment of industry resources the CMMC may require, the DOD eased some concerns by announcing that it would roll out the CMMC program out in stages. A new Defense federal Acquisition Regulation Supplement (“DFARS”) clause is expected in the spring of 2020, and CMMC requirements are anticipated to be included in certain limited Requests for Information released starting June 2020. Ultimately, all DOD contracts will include a minimum cybersecurity requirement by 2026. (more…)