On February 26, 2018, the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit ruled in an en banc decision that the “common carrier” exception in the Federal Trade Commission Act is “activity-based,” and therefore applies only to the extent a common carrier is engaging in common carrier services. The decision has implications for FTC authority over Internet service providers, indicating that the FTC has authority to bring consumer protection actions against such providers to the extent they are engaging in non-common carrier activities. The Federal Communications Commission (“FCC”) has previously ruled that Internet access service is not a common carrier service subject to that agency’s jurisdiction. Continue Reading Ninth Circuit Decision Bolsters FTC Authority over Internet Service Providers
On February 27, 2018, the Federal Trade Commission (“FTC”) announced an agreement with PayPal, Inc., to settle charges that its Venmo peer-to-peer payment service misled consumers regarding privacy and the extent to which consumers’ financial accounts were secured. This is the second significant FTC settlement in the past three months that addressed these issues, following the FTC’s action against TaxSlayer, Inc. and signals a renewed focus by the FTC on violations of the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act’s (“GLBA’s”) Privacy and Safeguards Rules. Continue Reading FTC Announces Settlement for Venmo’s Alleged Violations of the GLBA’s Privacy and Safeguards Rules
On February 22, 2018, the Federal Trade Commission (“FTC”) published a blog post that provides tips on how consumers can use Virtual Private Network (“VPN”) apps to protect their information while in transit over public networks. The FTC notes that some consumers are finding VPN apps helpful in protecting their mobile device traffic over Wi-Fi networks at coffee shops, airports and other locations. Through a VPN app, a user can browse websites and use apps on their mobile devices, still shielding the traffic from prying eyes as it transmits via public networks.
On February 6, 2018, the Federal Trade Commission (“FTC”) released its agenda for PrivacyCon 2018, which will take place on February 28. Following recent FTC trends, PrivacyCon 2018 will focus on privacy and data security considerations associated with emerging technologies, including the Internet of Things, artificial intelligence and virtual reality. The event will feature four panel presentations by over 20 researchers, including (1) collection, exfiltration and leakage of private information; (2) consumer preferences, expectations and behaviors; (3) economics, markets and experiments and (4) tools and ratings for privacy management. The FTC’s press release emphasizes the event’s focus on the economics of privacy, including “how to quantify the harms that result when companies fail to secure consumer information, and how to balance the costs and benefits of privacy-protective technologies and practices.” Continue Reading FTC Releases PrivacyCon 2018 Agenda
On February 5, 2018, the Federal Trade Commission (“FTC”) announced its most recent Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (“COPPA”) case against Explore Talent, an online service marketed to aspiring actors and models. According to the FTC’s complaint, Explore Talent provided a free platform for consumers to find information about upcoming auditions, casting calls and other opportunities. The company also offered a monthly fee-based “pro” service that promised to provide consumers with access to specific opportunities. Users who registered online were asked to input a host of personal information including full name, email, telephone number, mailing address and photo; they also were asked to provide their eye color, hair color, body type, measurements, gender, ethnicity, age range and birth date. Continue Reading FTC Brings Its Thirtieth COPPA Case, Against Online Talent Agency
On January 18, 2018, the Federal Trade Commission (“FTC”) released its 2017 Privacy & Data Security Update (the “Report”). The annual Report, which summarizes the privacy and data security-related activities conducted by the FTC over the past year, is broken down into five key areas: (1) enforcement, (2) advocacy, (3) workshops, (4) reports and surveys, (5) consumer education and business guidance, and (6) international engagement.
On January 9, 2018, the FTC issued a paper recapping the key takeaways from the FTC’s and National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s June 2017 workshop on privacy and security issues involving connected cars. The workshop featured representatives from consumer groups, industry, government and academia. Continue Reading FTC Recaps Connected Cars Privacy and Security Workshop
On January 8, 2018, the FTC announced an agreement with electronic toy manufacturer, VTech Electronics Limited and its U.S. subsidiary, settling charges that VTech violated the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (“COPPA”) by collecting personal information from hundreds of thousands of children without providing direct notice or obtaining their parent’s consent, and failing to take reasonable steps to secure the data it collected. Under the agreement, VTech will (1) pay a $650,000 civil penalty; (2) implement a comprehensive data security program, subject to independent audits for 20 years; and (3) comply with COPPA. This is the FTC’s first COPPA case involving connected toys and the Internet of Things.
On December 12, 2017, the Federal Trade Commission hosted a workshop on informational injury in Washington, D.C., where industry experts, policymakers, researchers and legal professionals considered how to best characterize and measure potential injuries and resulting harms to consumers when information about them is misused or inappropriately protected. Continue Reading FTC Hosts Workshop on Informational Injury
Recently, the FTC and FCC announced their intent to enter into a Memorandum of Understanding (“MOU”) under which the agencies would coordinate their efforts following the adoption of the Restoring Internet Freedom Order (the “Order”). As we previously reported, if adopted, the Order would repeal the rules put in place by the FCC in 2015 that prohibit high-speed internet service providers (“ISPs”) from stopping or slowing down the delivery of websites and from charging customers extra fees for high-quality streaming and other services. Continue Reading FTC and FCC Announce Cooperation on Repeal of Net Neutrality Rules