Federal Trade Commission

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

Effective September 21, 2018, Section 301 of the Economic Growth, Regulatory Relief, and Consumer Protection Act (the “Act”) requires consumer reporting agencies to provide free credit freezes and year-long fraud alerts to consumers throughout the country. Under the Act, consumer reporting agencies must each set up a webpage designed to enable consumers to request credit freezes, fraud alerts, extended fraud alerts and active duty fraud alerts. The webpage must also give consumers the ability to opt out of the use of information in a consumer report to send the consumer a solicitation of credit or insurance. Consumers may find links to these webpages on the Federal Trade Commission’s Identity Theft website.

The Act also enables parents and guardians to freeze their children’s credit if they are under age 16. Guardians or conservators of incapacitated persons may also request credit freezes on their behalf.

Section 302 of the Act provides additional protections for active duty military. Under this section, consumer reporting agencies must offer free electronic credit monitoring to all active duty military.

For more information, read the FTC’s blog post.

The Federal Trade Commission announced the opening dates of its Hearings on Competition and Consumer Protection in the 21st Century, a series of public hearings that will discuss whether broad-based changes in the economy, evolving business practices, new technologies or international developments might require adjustments to competition and consumer protection law, enforcement priorities and policy. The FTC and Georgetown University Law Center will co-sponsor two full-day sessions of hearings on September 13 and 14, 2018, to be held at the Georgetown University Law Center facility. Continue Reading FTC to Commence Hearings on Competition and Consumer Protection in the 21st Century

On August 13, 2018, the Federal Trade Commission approved changes to the video game industry’s safe harbor guidelines under the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (“COPPA”) Rule. COPPA’s “safe harbor” provision enables industry groups to propose self-regulatory guidelines regarding COPPA compliance for FTC approval.  Continue Reading FTC Approves Changes to Video Game Industry’s Safe Harbor Program Under COPPA

On August 6, 2018, the Federal Trade Commission published a notice seeking public comment on whether the FTC should expand its enforcement power over corporate privacy and data security practices. The notice, published in the Federal Register, follows FTC Chairman Joseph Simons’ declaration at a July 18 House subcommittee hearing that the FTC’s current authority to do so, under Section 5 of the FTC Act, is inadequate to deal with the privacy and security issues in today’s market. Continue Reading FTC Asks Whether to Expand Enforcement Power Over Corporate Privacy Practices

On July 12, 2018, two U.S. Senators sent a letter to the Federal Trade Commission asking the agency to investigate the privacy policies and practices of smart TV manufacturers. In their letter, Senators Edward Markey (D-MA) and Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) note that smart TVs can “compile detailed profiles about users’ preferences and characteristics” which can then allow companies to personalize ads to be sent to “customers’ computers, phones or any other device that shares the smart TV’s internet connection.” Continue Reading Senators Ask FTC to Investigate Smart TV Manufacturers