On April 4, 2017, the Massachusetts Attorney General’s office announced a settlement with Copley Advertising LLC (“Copley”) in a case involving geofencing. Continue Reading Massachusetts AG Settles Geofencing Case
On November 21, 2014, Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley announced that Boston hospital Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (“BIDMC”) has agreed to pay a total of $100,000 to settle charges related to a data breach that affected the personal and protected health information of nearly 4,000 patients and employees.
On March 11, 2013, in Tyler v. Michaels Stores, Inc., the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court effectively reinstated the suit against the retailer by answering favorably for the plaintiff three certified questions from the United States District Court for the District of Massachusetts regarding Massachusetts General Laws Chapter 93, Section 105(a) entitled “Consumer Privacy in Commercial Transactions” (“Section 105(a)”). The court ruled that (1) a ZIP code constitutes personal identification information under the Massachusetts law; (2) a plaintiff may bring an action for a violation of the Massachusetts law absent identity fraud; and (3) the term “credit card transaction form” refers equally to electronic and paper transaction forms. The Massachusetts court’s determination that a ZIP code constitutes personal identification information is similar to the determination in Pineda v. Williams-Sonoma Stores, Inc., in which the California Supreme Court held that ZIP codes are “personal identification information” under California’s Song-Beverly Credit Card Act. More than 15 states, including Massachusetts and California, have statutes limiting the type of information that retailers can collect from customers.
On January 7, 2013, Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley announced that several Massachusetts medical practices have agreed to a consent judgment and $140,000 payment to settle charges they improperly disposed of medical information. The defendants, which include several pathology practices and a firm that provided medical billing services to those practices, were accused of dumping hard copy medical records at the Georgetown Transfer Station, a waste management facility open to the public. The records allegedly contained the names, Social Security numbers and medical diagnoses of approximately 67,000 individuals. The illegal dumping allegations were publicized in a Boston Globe article after a photographer for the newspaper discovered medical records at the facility while he was disposing of his own trash.
On September 17, 2012, the Department of Health and Human Services (“HHS”) announced a $1.5 million settlement with the Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary and Massachusetts Eye and Ear Associates Inc. (“MEEI”) for potential violations of the HIPAA Security Rule. In connection with the announcement, the HHS Office for Civil Rights (“OCR”) Director Leon Rodriguez stated that organizations should pay special attention to safeguarding information “stored and transported on portable devices such as laptops, tablets, and mobile phones” and that “compliance with the HIPAA Privacy and Security Rules must be prioritized by management and implemented throughout an organization, from top to bottom.”
On May 24, 2012, Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley announced that South Shore Hospital agreed to a consent judgment and $750,000 payment to settle a lawsuit stemming from a data breach that occurred in February 2010. At that time, South Shore Hospital shipped several boxes of unencrypted back-up tapes to a service provider in Texas to erase them. The tapes contained the personal and protected health information of approximately 800,000 individuals, including names, Social Security numbers, financial account numbers and medical diagnoses. Several of the boxes went missing and have yet to be recovered, though there is no evidence that the information on the missing tapes has been misused.
On March 21, 2012, Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley announced that Maloney Properties Inc. (“MPI”), a property management firm, executed an Assurance of Discontinuance and agreed to pay $15,000 in civil penalties following an October 2011 theft of an unencrypted company-issued laptop. The laptop contained personal information of more than 600 Massachusetts residents and was left in an employee’s car overnight. MPI has indicated that it has no evidence of unauthorized access to or use of the personal information in connection with this breach.
On January 6, 2012, the United States District Court for the District of Massachusetts granted Michaels Stores, Inc.’s (“Michaels”) a motion to dismiss against a customer-plaintiff who alleged that Michaels’ in-store information collection practices violated Massachusetts law. Although the court ruled in Michaels’ favor, it found that customer ZIP codes do constitute personal information under Massachusetts state law when collected in the context of a credit card transaction. The plaintiff’s class action complaint alleged that “Michaels illegally requested customers’ ZIP codes when processing their credit card transactions in violation of” Massachusetts General Laws Chapter 93, Section 105(a) (“Section 105(a)”). Specifically, Section 105(a) states that “[n]o person, firm, partnership, corporation or other business entity that accepts a credit card for a business transaction shall write, cause to be written or require that a credit card holder write personal identification information, not required by the credit card issuer, on the credit card transaction form.”
On July 29, 2011, Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley announced a $7,500 settlement with Belmont Savings Bank following a May 2011 data breach involving the names, Social Security numbers and account numbers of more than 13,000 Massachusetts residents. The bank has stated that it has no evidence of unauthorized access to or use of consumers’ personal information in connection with this breach.
On March 28, 2011, the Briar Group, LLC, owner and operator of several Boston-area bars and restaurants, reached a settlement with Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley regarding the breach of “tens of thousands” of consumers’ payment card information. The settlement resolves a lawsuit filed in Massachusetts Superior Court alleging that in April 2009 hackers gained access to the Briar Group’s computer systems and misappropriated customer data by installing malcode which was not removed by the company until December of that year. The complaint further alleged that the Briar Group’s lax data protection practices, such as allowing employees to share computer passwords and failing to secure network wireless connections, put customers’ personal information at risk.