Artificial intelligence continues to remain a focus in 2021, as we predicted at the start of the year. From the FTC, to the EU, to others, regulators of all kinds are paying attention to companies’ use of these tools. In the latest, five US federal agencies are seeking input on how financial institutions are using AI tools. Comments from stakeholders are due by June 1, 2021.
Continue Reading Federal Financial Agencies Seek Comments on Use of Artificial Intelligence

The FTC recently settled with Flo Health, Inc., a popular fertility-tracking app, based on promises made about how health data would be shared.  In its complaint, the FTC alleged that while Flo promised to keep users’ health data private and only use it to provide the app’s services to users, in fact, health information of over 100 million users was being shared with popular third party companies. Namely, third parties who provided marketing and analytics services to the app.
Continue Reading FTC Settles with Fertility Tracking App For Alleged Deceptive Data Sharing Practices

Will HHS’ approach for imposing penalties in the aftermath of a data breach become a little clearer in 2021? This is a distinct possibility in the wake of a Fifth Circuit decision vacating penalties against MD Anderson Cancer Center. The hospital suffered three data breaches, leading HHS to impose over $4 million in civil penalties. That fine was reversed recently by the Fifth Circuit as arbitrary, capricious, and contrary to law.
Continue Reading What Does the Fifth Circuit’s Vacating of HHS HIPAA Fines Mean for Companies This Year?

The FTC recently settled with Ascension Data & Analytics for failure to oversee service providers. Ascension provides services to mortgage companies within its corporate family of entities. According to the complaint, Ascension uses third parties to provide some of its services. One of those, OpticsML, had access to tax returns for approximately 60,000 customers. OpticsML stored the information on a cloud-based server which server was publicly accessible for a year. During that time the tax documents were accessed by unauthorized individuals. The originating IP addresses were in Russia and China.  Although the security incident was that of OpticsML, the FTC alleged that Ascension violated the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act’s Safeguards Rule. Namely, the company failed to properly oversee its service providers and it failed to adequately assess risk. In particular, the FTC alleged that:
Continue Reading FTC Settles Over Alleged Failure to Manage Service Providers

As it closed out 2020, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) sent out requests to nine social media and video streaming companies asking them to provide more information about how they treat consumer information. The FTC indicated that it wanted to learn more about the companies’ activities in order to inform the FTC’s approach to privacy and data security. The FTC, in particular, is focused on how the privacy practices of these entities affect children and teenagers. The FTC exercised its authority under a provision of the law that allows it to gather information generally from a particular company or industry (without bringing a specific action against the company or industry). One FTC commissioner did dissent, arguing that the request the FTC made of these companies was too broad.
Continue Reading FTC Focuses on Privacy Practices of Social Media and Video Streaming Companies

Alleging unfair and deceptive practices in violation of the FTC Act, the FTC recently entered into a settlement agreement with SkyMed International, Inc. The company sells travel emergency plans to individuals who sustain medical emergencies or injuries while traveling internationally, and has signed up -according to the FTC- thousands of consumers. During the sign-up process individuals provided the company with sensitive health information.
Continue Reading FTC Settles with Travel Services Provider Over Security Issues

There has been much scrutiny of artificial intelligence tools this year. From NIST to the FTC to the EU Parliament, many have recommendations and requirements for companies that want to use AI tools. Key concerns including being transparent about the use of the tools, ensuring accuracy, and not discriminating against individuals when using AI technologies, and not using the technologies in situations where it may not give reliable results (i.e., for things for which the  was not designed). Additional requirements for use of these tools exist under GDPR as well.
Continue Reading 2020 In Review: An AI Roundup

Throughout 2020 we saw many enforcement actions brought by EU and U.S. regulators. Whether for allegations of deception (misleading privacy representations) or unfairness (failure to protect information), COVID did not appear to slow down regulatory action. Laws that many companies forget about -or don’t know as well- were enforced by regulators, as well as through class action lawsuits. This included the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act, Illinois’s Biometric Information Privacy Act, and the Telephone Consumer Protection Act.
Continue Reading 2020 In Review: Ongoing Enforcement Actions and a Patchwork of Privacy Laws

As we wrote previously, kids are spending more of their days online and are using online platforms for virtual learning and entertainment. Much of this environment is funded through online advertising. All companies thus need to think about the impact that children’s privacy laws, like COPPA, have on the online environment, as they will see the outcomes of this applicability in their contracts.
Continue Reading Back to School Special: But I’m Just an Ad Network! Am I Subject to Children’s Privacy Laws?

In our online world, one of the challenges (and opportunities) for companies is the increased use of their websites, apps, and connected devices. For platforms directed to both adults and children, or platforms previously directed to adults which would like to now also direct their services to children, the FTC’s recently streamlined FAQs, and ICPEN’s guide (both of which we introduced earlier this week) can help companies in this space. The information is particularly helpful for those that were aimed mostly toward adults, and are now shifting their business plans to direct products or services to children as well.
Continue Reading Back to School Special: Is My Multi-Age Platform Subject to Child Protection Requirements?