UK’s ICO Fines Marketing Company Over Unsolicited Emails

The UK’s data protection authority, the ICO, recently fined marketing firm Everything DM Ltd for sending almost 1.5 million marketing emails without obtaining sufficient consent as required by the UK’s Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations. In particular, the company sent messages on its clients behalf, the messages appeared to the recipient to come from the client, not Everything DM Ltd, yet Everything DM could not establish for the ICO that either it or its clients had obtained consent. Of concern to the ICO was that Everything DM merely “relied on the consent of third parties but didn’t take reasonable steps” to make sure that the appropriate consents were in place. Continue Reading

New York Federal Court Dismisses Nationwide Class Action Arising Out of Alleged Spying by E-Commerce Retailers

In a victory for online retailers, a New York federal court recently dismissed three putative class action lawsuits brought on behalf of website visitors whose mouse clicks, keystrokes, and electronic communications were tracked by a third-party marketing company. The cases were filed against three e-commerce retailers—Casper (a mattress manufacturer and retailer), Tyrwhitt (a men’s clothing company), and Moosejaw (an active outdoor retailer)—and against a marketing company named NaviStone. NaviStone offers computer code that allows e-commerce retailers to determine the identities of consumers who visit their websites and track their online behavior. The plaintiff alleged that the code offered by NaviStone, and embedded in the retailers’ websites, functioned as an illegal wiretap enabling the retailers and NaviStone to “spy” on website visitors in real time as they browse. The lawsuits alleged violations under the federal Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA), the federal Stored Communications Act (SCA), and New York General Business law (NYGBL). Continue Reading

BIPA Claims Against United Airlines Must be Arbitrated Due to Collective Bargaining Agreement

Last month a federal district court dismissed a putative class action lawsuit against United Airlines challenging its use of fingerprint scanning timeclocks. The lawsuit brought by United employee David Johnson alleged that the company’s collection and use of employees’ fingerprints violated the Illinois Biometric Information Privacy Act (BIPA) because the company failed to get the requisite consent from its employees for fingerprint collection and use. Continue Reading

Two Cyber Laws Go Into Effect Over US Labor Day Weekend

On September 1, the Colorado breach notification statute update became effective, the first of two developments that occurred over the weekend. As we wrote about when the modification was passed, Colorado’s updated statute expands the definition of “personal information” to include ID numbers, medical information, and biometric information and places a proactive obligation on companies to investigate potential breaches. If notification is required, it will now have to be provided within 30 days of the company determining that the breach has occurred, and Colorado now joins many other states in having content requirements for breach notices. In addition to the data breach notification changes, the law also creates a requirement to “reasonably” protect personal information. Continue Reading

Unixiz Settles COPPA Allegations with NJ AG

Unixiz, operator of the i-Dressup site, reached an agreement with the New Jersey Attorney General to settle charges that the company had violated the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act and the New Jersey’s Consumer Fraud Act. The New Jersey AG claimed that Unixiz violated these statutes by collecting information about children without first getting parental consent. The AG’s investigation into Unixiz’s privacy practices began after Unixiz disclosed a data breach in 2016. Users of the i-Dressup site created accounts with the site (and thus established usernames and passwords). In 2016 hackers accessed approximately 2.2 million users’ names and passwords.  In response to the breach, the New Jersey AG launched an investigation into the company. The investigation revealed that in addition to failing to safeguard its users’ information, Unixiz did not get parental consent before collecting children’s personal information, as required under COPPA. Included among its users were 2,519 New Jersey children.  Continue Reading

FTC Seeks Comment on Fundamental Privacy Enforcement Issues

On August 6, the FTC announced that it is seeking comment on a number of topics that are fundamental to its work, including on privacy. These topics will form the basis of its hearings on “Competition and Consumer Protection in the 21st Century”, which it will hold from September through January 2019, as we recently mentioned on this blog. The hearings will cover a variety of topics critical to the FTC, a few of which relate directly to privacy issues. These include:

• The intersection of privacy, big data, and competition, including the benefits and costs of privacy laws, and the benefits, costs and conflicts of such laws existing at different levels of government (federal, state, local, etc.);
• The Commission’s remedial authority to deter unfair and deceptive conduct. This is probably the most significant topic, because it touches on the expansiveness of the Commission’s authority to regulate privacy issues. It follows on Commission Chairman Simons’s recent testimony in the House of Representatives that the Commission may need more and better authority in the privacy realm than its current reliance on Section 5 of the Federal Trade Commission Act’s focus on unfair and deceptive practices;
• The welfare effects and privacy implications of using algorithmic decision tools and predictive analytics; and
• The efficacy of the FTC’s current investigation and remedial processes. Continue Reading

EU and Japan Strike Tentative Data Transfer Deal

The EU and Japan have reached a “reciprocal adequacy” agreement to allow data to flow more easily between them. As part of a larger bilateral trade deal which included commitments by both parties to reduce tariffs, Japan also agreed to enact additional safeguards to comply with new EU data protection standards. Those additional safeguards include increased data subject rights to access and correction, restrictions upon transfers of EU data from Japan to third countries, and limits on the use of sensitive data. Japan’s independent data protection authority would have enforcement authority over the new rules, and would investigate and resolve complaints from European data subjects. If it is approved by internal committees and regulators in both the EU and Japan, the deal will come into effect this Fall. This agreement comes after pressure this summer from the EU Parliament to suspend the US-EU agreement currently in place (the “Privacy Shield” program). Continue Reading

DOJ Report Suggests Direction For Addressing Cyber Threats

As many of you have no doubt seen, the Justice Department recently released the report of the Attorney General’s Cyber Digital Task Force, a body the Attorney General had created in February. In the report, the Task Force, chaired by Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, seeks to answer the question: “How is the Department responding to cyber threats?” On the off chance that you’re not dying to read all 144 pages, we have provided a short summary and a couple of takeaways below. Continue Reading

Louisiana’s Breach Notification Law Update Now In Effect

As we wrote when the law passed, Louisiana updated its data breach notification statute earlier this year. The new law becomes effective today (August 1), and comes close on the heels of the July 20th effective date of Arizona’s update to its breach law. As modified, the Louisiana law adds biometric information as well as state ID and passport numbers to the definition of personal information. It also joins a trend that imposes a specific notification timeline by requiring that notice be made (namely within 60 days of the discovery of the breach). The law also requires that companies keep written records of unreported breaches for five years. Companies must provide that record to the state Attorney General if requested.  Continue Reading

The California Privacy Law Is Coming: What Should Your Company Do Now?

As has been widely reported, California’s new privacy regime is set to come into effect on January 1, 2020. The law constitutes an expansion beyond California’s existing privacy laws, in particular California’s existing Shine the Light Law and the California Online Privacy Protection Act. Various provisions of the new law will apply to businesses with annual total revenue greater than $25 million (not just in California), that obtain or share for commercial purposes the personal information of 50,000 or more, or that get 50% or more of their revenue from selling or sharing PII. The law was passed quickly to avoid a similar voter-initiative ballot measure, and as a result has several ambiguities and apparent inconsistencies. It is therefore very likely that the law will be changed by amendment, and clarified through rules and regulations, before it comes into effect in 2020.  Continue Reading

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