On December 4, 2018, the New York Attorney General (“NY AG”) announced that Oath Inc., which was known as AOL Inc. (“AOL”) until June 2017 and is a subsidiary of Verizon Communications Inc., agreed to pay New York a $4.95 million civil penalty following allegations that it had violated the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (“COPPA”) by collecting and disclosing children’s personal information in conducting online auctions for advertising placement. This is the largest-ever COPPA penalty.
On December 4, 2018, the Federal Trade Commission published a notice in the Federal Register indicating that it is seeking public comment on whether any amendments should be made to the FTC’s Identity Theft Red Flags Rule (“Red Flags Rule”) and the duties of card issuers regarding changes of address (“Card Issuers Rule”) (collectively, the “Identity Theft Rules”). The request for comment forms part of the FTC’s systematic review of all current FTC regulations and guides. These periodic reviews seek input from stakeholders on the benefits and costs of specific FTC rules and guides along with information about their regulatory and economic impacts.
The Federal Trade Commission published the agenda for the ninth session of its Hearings on Competition and Consumer Protection in the 21st Century (“Hearings Initiative”), a wide-ranging series of public hearings. The ninth session, to take place on December 11-12, 2018, will focus on data security. Lisa Sotto, chair of Hunton Andrews Kurth’s Privacy and Cybersecurity practice, is one of five panel participants discussing “The U.S. Approach to Consumer Data Security.” The panel will be moderated by James Cooper, Deputy Director for Economic Analysis of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection.
On November 1, 2018, Senator Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) released a draft bill, the Consumer Data Protection Act, that seeks to “empower consumers to control their personal information.” The draft bill imposes heavy penalties on organizations and their executives, and would require senior executives of companies with more than one billion dollars per year of revenue or data on more than 50 million consumers to file annual data reports with the Federal Trade Commission. The draft bill would subject senior company executives to imprisonment for up to 20 years or fines up to $5 million, or both, for certifying false statements on an annual data report. Additionally, like the EU General Data Protection Regulation, the draft bill proposes a maximum fine of 4% of total annual gross revenue for companies that are found to be in violation of Section 5 of the FTC Act.
On October 19, 2018, the Federal Trade Commission announced that it released a paper on the Staff Perspective on the Informational Injury Workshop (the “Paper”), which summarized the outcomes of a workshop it hosted on December 12, 2017 to discuss and better understand “informational injuries” (i.e., harm suffered by consumers as a result of privacy and security incidents, such as data breaches or unauthorized disclosures of data) in an effort to guide (1) future policy determinations related to consumer injury and (2) future application of the “substantial injury” prong in cases involving informational injury. Continue Reading FTC Releases Staff Perspective on Informational Injuries
Vizio, Inc. (“Vizio”), a California-based company best known for its internet-connected televisions, agreed to a $17 million settlement that, if approved, will resolve multiple proposed consumer class actions consolidated in California federal court. The suits’ claims, which are limited to the period between February 1, 2014 and February 6, 2017, involve data-tracking software Vizio installed on its smart TVs. The software allegedly identified content displayed on Vizio TVs and enabled Vizio to determine the date, time, channel of programs and whether a viewer watched live or recorded content. The viewing patterns were connected to viewer’s IP addresses, though never, Vizio emphasized in its press release announcing the proposed settlement, to an individual’s name, address, or similar identifying information. According to Vizio, viewing data allows advertisers and programmers to develop content better aligned with consumers’ preferences and interests. Continue Reading Vizio Agrees to $17M Settlement to Resolve Smart TV Class Action Suit
On September 27, 2018, the Federal Trade Commission announced a settlement agreement with four companies – IDmission, LLC, (“IDmission”) mResource LLC (doing business as Loop Works, LLC) (“mResource”), SmartStart Employment Screening, Inc. (“SmartStart”), and VenPath, Inc. (“VenPath”) – over allegations that each company had falsely claimed to have valid certifications under the EU-U.S. Privacy Shield framework. The FTC alleged that SmartStart, VenPath and mResource continued to post statements on their websites about their participation in the Privacy Shield after allowing their certifications to lapse. IDmission had applied for a Privacy Shield certification but never completed the necessary steps to be certified. Continue Reading Four Companies Settle FTC Allegations Regarding False EU-U.S. Privacy Shield Certifications
On September 26, 2018, the U.S. Department of Commerce’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration (“NTIA”) announced that it is seeking public comments on a proposed approach to advancing consumer privacy. The approach is divided into two parts: (1) a set of desired user-centric privacy outcomes of organizational practices, including transparency, control, reasonable minimization (of data collection, storage length, use and sharing), security, access and correction, risk management and accountability; and (2) a set of high-level goals that describe the outlines of the ecosystem that should be created to provide those protections, including harmonizing the regulatory landscape, balancing legal clarity and the flexibility to innovate, ensuring comprehensive application, employing a risk and outcome-based approach, creating mechanisms for interoperability with international norms and frameworks, incentivizing privacy research, ensuring that the Federal Trade Commission has the resources and authority to enforce, and ensuring scalability. Continue Reading NTIA Seeks Public Comment on Approach to Consumer Privacy with an Eye Toward Building Better Privacy Protections
On September 26, 2018, the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation convened a hearing on Examining Consumer Privacy Protections with representatives of major technology and communications firms to discuss approaches to protecting consumer privacy, how the U.S. might craft a federal privacy law, and companies’ experiences in implementing the EU General Data Protection Regulation (“GDPR”) and the California Consumer Privacy Act (“CCPA”). Continue Reading Senate Commerce Committee Holds Hearing on Examining Consumer Privacy Protections
On September 26, 2018, Uber Technologies Inc. (“Uber”) agreed to a settlement (the “Settlement”) with all 50 U.S. state attorneys general (the “Attorneys General”) in connection with a 2016 data breach affecting the personal information (including driver’s license numbers) of approximately 607,000 Uber drivers nationwide, as well as approximately 57 million consumers’ email addresses and phone numbers. The Attorneys General alleged that after Uber learned of the breach, which occurred in November 2016, the company paid intruders a $100,000 ransom to delete the data. The Attorneys General alleged that Uber failed to promptly notify affected individuals of the incident, as required under various state laws, instead notifying affected customers and drivers of the breach one year later in November 2017. Continue Reading Uber Settles with 50 State Attorneys General for $148 Million In Connection with 2016 Data Breach