The FTC recently settled with a surveillance app operator over allegations that the company facilitated the secret harvesting of personal information. According to the FTC, the main users of Support King, LLC’s “SpyFone” app were bad actors who used the tool to remotely monitor users’ physical and digital activities. The FTC dismissed the company’s argument that the users were employers and parents as a “pretext.” It felt neither group would want to use the product, which to install required minimizing the device’s security settings and potentially voiding the device warranty.

Continue Reading FTC Surveillance App Settlement Signals Concern Over Deceptive Tracking

The use of apps, wearables, and other devices used to track health and wellness data have continued to rise. The FTC again signaled its focus on this growing industry in a statement on the scope of the Health Breach Notification Rule. In the statement, the FTC called out specific types of apps and trackers that it views as having notification obligations under this rule.

Continue Reading FTC Warns Digital Health Industry to Comply with its Breach Notification Rule

The FTC recently announced the removal of Aristotle International, Inc. from the list of seven approved safe harbor programs under the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act. Programs that are approved by the FTC must place requirements on participating organizations that are the same -or greater- than the requirements of COPPA. (As we have reported in the past, COPPA requires, inter alia, getting verified parental consent before collecting personal information from children online.) Companies that participate in those approved COPPA safe harbor programs are deemed in compliance with COPPA. Such protection can be valuable with a law, like COPPA, that has been found to be confusing to operationalize.

Continue Reading A COPPA First: Safe Harbor Program Removed From Approved List

The FTC recently voted to authorize the use of compulsory processes—the FTC’s primary investigatory tools—on what it calls “key law enforcement priorities.” The resolutions allow investigators to take actions like issuing subpoenas and civil investigations demands (commonly referred to as “CIDs”) in a variety of areas. Of note is the inclusion of both healthcare markets and technology platforms, signaling a potential FTC interest in those sectors.

Continue Reading FTC Signals Focus on Healthcare and Technology Platforms, Among Others

MoviePass, a movie subscription service, has agreed to a proposed settlement with the FTC over alleged deception and lack of security allegations. The now-defunct company not only allegedly marketed its service as a “one movie per day” service – yet took steps to actively deny subscribers such access – it also failed, according to the FTC, to secure subscriber’s personal data. The company also was alleged to have violated the Restore Online Shoppers’ Confident Act, which impacts the offering of “negative option” (subscription) services.
Continue Reading FTC Settles Security Claims With Both MoviePass and Its Owners

The Supreme Court recently dealt a potential blow to the FTC’s enforcement tool chest.  In particular, the decision impacts its ability to seek monetary relief under a theory it has used in a wide variety of cases, included privacy and security ones, that monetary relief constitutes a “permanent injunction” on consumers’ behalf. In AMG Capital Management, LLC v. Federal Trade Commission, the Supreme Court held that while the FTC should be able to obtain injunctive relief to stop unfair practices, that power does not extend to seeking monetary relief for injured consumers.
Continue Reading Supreme Court Decision Impacts How FTC May Pursue Privacy Cases

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 new acting FTC chair, Rebecca Kelly Slaughter, recently signaled that the FTC may increase enforcement and penalties in the privacy and data security realm. Slaughter pointed to several areas of focus for the FTC this year, which companies will want to keep in mind:
Continue Reading What Is FTC’s Course Under Biden?

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?