Recently, Vermont enacted legislation (H.764) that regulates data brokers who buy and sell personal information. Vermont is the first state in the nation to enact this type of legislation.

  • Definition of Data Broker. The law defines a “data broker” broadly as “a business, or unit or units of a business, separately or together, that knowingly collects and sells or licenses to third parties the brokered personal information of a consumer with whom the business does not have a direct relationship.”
  • Definition of “Brokered Personal Information.” “Brokered personal information” is defined broadly to mean one or more of the following computerized data elements about a consumer, if categorized or organized for dissemination to third parties: (1) name, (2) address, (3) date of birth, (4) place of birth, (5) mother’s maiden name, (6) unique biometric data, including fingerprints, retina or iris images, or other unique physical or digital representations of biometric data, (7) name or address of a member of the consumer’s immediate family or household, (8) Social Security number or other government-issued identification number, or (9) other information that, alone or in combination with the other information sold or licensed, would allow a reasonable person to identify the consumer with reasonable security.
  • Registration Requirement. The law requires data brokers to register annually with the Vermont Attorney General and pay a $100 annual registration fee.
  • Disclosures to State Attorney General. Data brokers must disclose annually to the State Attorney General information regarding their practices related to the collection, storage or sale of consumers’ personal information. Data brokers also must disclose annually their practices, if any, for allowing consumers to opt out of the collection, storage or sale of their personal information. Further, the law requires data brokers to report annually the number of data breaches experienced during the prior year and, if known the total number of consumers affected by the breaches. There are additional disclosure requirements if the data broker knowingly possesses brokered personal information of minors, including a separate statement detailing the data broker’s practices for the collection, storage and sale of that information and applicable opt-out policies. Importantly, the law does not require data brokers to offer consumers the ability to opt out.
  • Information Security Program. The law requires data brokers to develop, implement and maintain a written, comprehensive information security program that contains appropriate physical, technical and administrative safeguards designed to protect consumers’ personal information.
  • Elimination of Fees for Security Freezes. The law eliminates fees associated with a consumer placing or lifting a security freeze. Previously, Vermont law allowed for fees of up to $10 to place, and up to $5 to lift temporarily or remove, a security freeze.
  • Enforcement. A violation of the law is considered an unfair and deceptive act in commerce in violation of Vermont’s consumer protection law.
  • Effective Date. The registration and data security obligations take effect January 1, 2019, while the other provisions of the law take effect immediately.

In a statement, Vermont Attorney General T.J. Donovan said, “This bill not only saves [Vermonters] money, but it gives them information and tools to help them keep their personal information secure.”

On October 31, 2017, the New York and Vermont Attorneys General (“Attorneys General”) announced a settlement with Hilton Domestic Operating Company, Inc., formerly known as Hilton Worldwide, Inc. (“Hilton”), to settle allegations that the company lacked reasonable data security and waited too long to report a pair of 2015 data breaches, which exposed over 350,000 credit card numbers. The Attorneys General alleged that Hilton failed to maintain reasonable data security and waited more than nine months after the first incident to notify consumers of the breaches, in violation of the states’ consumer protection and breach notification laws. Continue Reading Hilton Agrees to Settle Data Breach-Related Claims by NY and VT Attorneys General

On September 29, 2017, Samanage USA, Inc. (“Samanage”), a North Carolina-based technology company that provided cloud-based IT support services as a subcontractor for Vermont’s health care exchange (“Vermont Health Connect”), agreed to a $264,000 settlement with the Vermont Attorney General in relation to a breach that exposed the Social Security numbers of 660 Vermont Health Connect users.

Continue Reading Samanage USA, Inc. Agrees to Pay to Settle Vermont AG’s Data Security Investigation

On December 14, 2016, the FTC announced that the operating companies of the AshleyMadison.com website (collectively, the “Operators”) have settled with the FTC and a coalition of state regulators over charges that the Operators deceived consumers and failed to protect users’ personal information. The FTC worked with a coalition of 13 states, the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada and the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner to resolve this matter, which was initiated in the wake of the website’s July 2015 data breach. Continue Reading FTC Settles with Operators of AshleyMadison.com Over Security and Privacy Practices

On September 8, Vermont Attorney General William Sorrell announced that SEI/Aaron’s, Inc. has entered into an assurance of discontinuance, which includes $51,000 in total fines, to settle charges over the company’s remote monitoring of its customers’ leased laptops. The settlement stems from charges accusing SEI/Aaron’s, an Atlanta-based franchise of the national rent-to-own retailer Aaron’s, Inc., of unlawfully using surveillance software on its leased laptops to assist the company in the collection of its customers’ overdue rental payments. The Vermont Office of the Attorney General claimed that such remote monitoring of the laptop users’ online activities in connection with debt collection constituted an unfair practice in violation of the Vermont Consumer Protection Act.

Continue Reading Vermont Attorney General Reaches Settlement with Aaron’s Franchisee Over Unlawful Debt Collection Practices

On June 1, 2012, the Attorney General of Vermont announced a series of recent legislative moves to enhance the state’s consumer protection laws, including amendments to Vermont’s security breach notification law. The changes, which were signed into law by Governor Peter Shumlin in early May, include a revised definition of “security breach,” the addition of a 45-day timing requirement for notifying affected consumers, and a requirement to notify the state Attorney General within 14 days of discovering the breach (or when notifying consumers, if sooner).

Continue Reading Vermont Attorney General Announces Amendments to Security Breach Notification Law

On June 23, 2011, in a 6-3 decision, the United States Supreme Court ruled in IMS Health Inc. v. Sorrell that a Vermont law prohibiting the sale of prescriber-identifiable data to drug companies was an unconstitutional violation of the First Amendment right to free speech.  Thomas Julin, a partner at Hunton & Williams LLP, represented IMS Health in this case.  The Supreme Court’s ruling affirmed the holding of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, resolving a split with the First Circuit (which upheld a similar law in New Hampshire), and likely preventing the enactment of similar restrictive laws across the country.

Continue Reading Supreme Court Strikes Down Vermont Prescriber Privacy Law

On April 26, 2011, the United States Supreme Court heard oral argument in Sorrell v. IMS Health, a case concerning the constitutionality of a Vermont law that restricts access to prescription drug records.  Laws enacted by New Hampshire, Maine and Vermont prohibit pharmacies from selling prescriber-identifiable information in prescription records to third parties for marketing purposes.  The Supreme Court seeks to resolve a circuit split that resulted from legal challenges to the statutes in all three states.  Thomas Julin, partner at Hunton & Williams LLP, represents IMS Health and discussed the litigation in an interview with Fred Cate, Senior Policy Advisor of the Centre for Information Policy Leadership, during the Centre’s First Friday Call on May 6, 2011.