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?

In this remote era, companies are increasingly being approached by their business teams with ideas about products and services that involve video or audio recordings of their consumers. It may also involve letting people manipulate photos of themselves. Sometimes, those recordings and pictures are of children. Content that contain images or audio of individuals are considered personal information under many laws, including the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA). What does this mean for companies? As we discussed in our previous blog post, COPPA requires obtaining parental consent if the personal information collected is being collected by the company online, and being collected from the child. The FTC’s recently streamlined FAQs help companies find and understand obligations if collecting photos or recordings from children. Namely, a reminder that this content is personal, and does require verifiable parental consent before being collected.
Continue Reading Back to School Special: Recordings, Photos, Kids, and Parental Consent

In the current pandemic era, kids are spending more time online, be it for school or entertainment. Companies are therefore gearing up for increased interaction with children online or through connected devices. As children around the globe return to school, whatever  that return looks like, the FTC and the International Consumer Protection Enforcement Network (ICPEN) remind us that certain rules apply when dealing with kids online.
Continue Reading Back to School Special: COPPA Consent in the COVID Era

Companies who transfer data from the EU to the U.S. are struggling to determine the appropriate basis under which they can make these transfers. Continuing our examination of the outcome of this decision, we think now about what companies can do for transfers of information from the EU to the U.S.
Continue Reading EU Reaction to the Fall of Privacy Shield: The Rise of SCCs?

U.S. companies are in a bind in the wake of the recent EU decision rejecting the validity of the Privacy Shield. While it is clear that the EU will not accept Privacy Shield participation as a basis for transferring data from the EU to the U.S., next steps for participants are unfortunately not clear cut. U.S. companies who participate in the Shield program face two decisions: (1) whether to continue participation in the Privacy Shield program and (2) what mechanism to rely on for data transfers from the EU to the U.S.
Continue Reading How to Rise from the Privacy Shield Ashes: A View from the U.S.