Category: Countries

Electronic receipts sent by leading retailers may not comply with data protection rules

12. December 2018

After investigating several large retailers the consumer body Which? claims that many retailers in the UK include in their e-receipt marketing messages.

A lot of retailers offer the possibility to send digital receipts instead of paper receipts to the shoppers. However, it should be noted that when the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) came into force on May 25th earlier this year, the regulations concerning this area were tightened.

Retailers are not allowed to send direct marketing to new customers by email unless the recipient has consented to receive it. Shoppers must be given the opportunity to opt out in case the retailer asks for their email address at the point of sale with the intention to afterwards send marketing information.

According to Which? the following companies were visited at least three times by “mystery shoppers” to test if they send out unwanted marketing information in their e-receipts: Topshop, Dorothy Perkins, Nike, Clarks, New Look, Arcadia Group (Miss Selfridge, Outfit, Burton), Gap, Mothercare, Halfords, Currys PC World and Schuh. The “mystery shoppers” requested an electronic receipt without receiving any additional marketing.

The retailers dealt with this situation differently. One shop apparently sent a marketing email with the e-receipt as an attachment, while others included prompts to sign up for a newsletter or invitations to complete a survey in return for money off a future purchase. The concern is that consumers might be “bombarded” with unwanted marketing messages.

ICO fines companies for not paying the data protection fee

4. December 2018

The UK’s Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) fines the first companies for not paying the data protection fee. Unless they are exempt, all organisations, companies and sole traders who process personal data have to pay an annual data protection fee.

Depending on their maximum turnover, number of employees and whether they are a charity or public authority, the fee varies from £40 to £2,900. Whereas the fine for not paying varies from £400 to £4,000. The fines recovered go to the Treasury’s Consolidated Fund. The regulations came into force together with the new Data Protection Act on 25 May 2018.

“Following numerous attempts to collect the fees via our robust collection process, we are now left with no option but to issue fines to these organisations. They must now pay these fines within 28 days or risk further legal action. (…) You are breaking the law if you process personal data or are responsible for processing it and do not pay the data protection fee to the ICO”, said Paul Arnold, Deputy Chief Executive Officer at the ICO.

More than 900 fine notices have been issued by the ICO since September and more are set to follow. Companies can check if their fee is due to renewal on the ICO’s website.

Category: General · UK
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LinkedIn processed 18 million non-user email addresses to target Facebook advertisings

28. November 2018

The business and employment-oriented service LinkedIn processed the email addresses of 18 million non-members and targeted them with advertising on Facebook without permission.

A non-LinkedIn user issued a complaint to the Data Protection Commission that their email address had been obtained and used by the organisation for the purposes of targeted advertising on Facebook. Within Ireland’s Data Protection Commission the concerns grew regarding LinkedIn’s processing of personal data of non-users. Therefore, the office conducted an audit of the multinational LinkedIn Ireland, home to the company’s EU headquarters, and stated that it used million of e-mail addresses of non-users.

Also involved is LinkedIn Corp in the US, which processes data on behalf of LinkedIn Ireland. They targeted – by means of 18 million addresses – the individuals in Facebook. According to the commissioner’s annual report LinkedIn in the US carried out the processing in the absence of instructions from LinkedIn in Ireland (the controller). Said annual report covers the period from January 1st to May 24th 2018. Then the old office of the Data Protection Commissioner ceased to exist due to the General Data Protection Regulation. The new Data Protection Commission came into existence on May 25th 2018.

Brexit: Draft withdrawal agreement – GDPR remains applicable for foreseeable future

23. November 2018

Last week the U.K. and EU could conclude a draft withdrawal agreement for the United Kingdom to leave the European Union on 30th March 2019.The agreement covers the “divorce” of both of them and a non-binding political statement concerning their ideas for the future relations. The declaration is referring to a commitment regarding an ambitious free trade agreement, containing areas including financial services, continued free flow of data, and other subjects relating to the EU such as defense matters have been picked up.

After the U.K. will have left the EU in March 2019 a 21-month transition period is planned in order to facilitating business sectors in their planning. Thus, at least until the beginning of 2021, EU regulations would remain effective keeping the U.K. in the single market and Customs Union. However, this time frame could also be extended by common agreement.

With regard to data protection, the withdrawal agreement directly addresses data protection and security issues in Articles 70 to 74. These provisions stipulate that EU data protection rules, including the GDPR, shall apply in the U.K. when using personal data of data subjects outside the United Kingdom exchanged before the end of the transition period. Furthermore, after the end of the transition period, the U.K. is obliged to further apply these EU rules to the processing of “EU personal data”, until the U.K. data protection laws to be enacted ensure an adequate level of data protection which is “essentially equivalent” to that of the EU.  In the process of becoming subject to this formal adequacy decision to be established by the EU Commission the U.K.’s applicable data protection regime has to be assessed in the first place. In the event of annulling or repealing the adequacy decision, the provisions of the withdrawal agreement would be relevant for the EU personal data transferred to the U.K. to ensure the same “essentially equivalent” standard of data protection directly.

In other words, under the concluded agreement, the GDPR as well as the corresponding Data Protection Act would remain the applicable data protection law in the U.K. for the foreseeable future.

Privacy International accuses seven companies of violating the GDPR

13. November 2018

On November 8th, Privacy International – a British non-governmental organisation – has filed complaints against seven data brokers (Axiom, Oracle), ad-tech companies (Criteo, Quandcast, Tapad) and credit referencing agencies (Equifax, Experian) with data protection authorities in France, Ireland and the UK.

Privacy International accuses those companies of violating the GDPR: They all collect personal data from a wide variety of sources and merge them into individual profiles. Therefore, information from different areas of an individual’s life flow together to create a comprehensive picture e.g. online and offline shopping behaviour, hobbies, health, social life, income situation.

According to Privacy International, the companies not only deal with the collected data, but also with the conclusions they draw about their data subjects: Life situation, personality, creditworthiness. Among their customers are other companies, individuals and governments. Privacy International accuses them to violate data protection principals such as transparency, purpose limitation, data minimisation, integrity and confidentiality.

Furthermore, the companies have no valid legal basis for the processing of personal data, in particular for the purpose of profiling. According to Privacy International, where those companies claim to have the consent of the data subjects, they cannot prove how this consent was given, nor that the data subjects voluntarily provided it after sufficient and clear information.

“Without urgent and continuous action, data will be used in ways that people cannot now even imagine, to define and manipulate our lives without us being to understand why or being able to effectively fight back,” Frederike Kaltheuner, Privacy International’s data exploitation programme lead, said.

With its complaint, Privacy International takes advantage of a new possibility for collective enforcement of data protection created by the GDPR. The Regulation allows non-profit organisations or associations to use supervisory procedures to represent data subjects (Art. 80 GDPR).

Apple, Google and Co. endorse a more GDPR-like U.S. federal privacy law

6. November 2018

At the 4oth International Conference of Data Protection and Privacy Commissioners (ICDPPC) Apple CEO Tim Cook and other prominent representatives of leading tech companies, all expressed their endorsement of a more GDPR-like privacy legislation around the globe and particularly the US. The ICDPPC takes place in Brussels once a year and apart from independent data protection authorities as accredited members, the attendees include representatives of states without independent data protection supervisory bodies, international organisations, non-governmental organisations as well as representatives from science and industry.

On this platform, Cook strongly supported the idea of introducing similar data protection standards to those of the GDPR in the US and encouraged his fellow tech companies to do so as well. The Apple CEO warned of a danger of a “data industrial complex”, where information about individuals is being weaponized against humanity “with military efficiency”. Cook pointed out that scraps of personal data are “carefully assembled, synthesized, traded and sold” creating an “enduring digital profile which lets companies know individuals better than they may know themselves”, since businesses would use these information to make billions and billions of dollars. As this would end up in surveillance while those stockpiles of data only serve to enrich companies, he ensures Apple’s “full support of a comprehensive federal privacy law in the United States”.

Without mentioning them, the Apple CEO refers in particular to the data giants Google and Facebook by emphasizing their responsibility of creating adequate data protection standards. Both of them have been in the focus of a global discussion on whether they provide their users with adequate privacy settings. However, Facebook’s CPO Erin Egan replied, unequivocally, “yes”, when she was asked whether she would support a GDPR-like data protection law in the U.S. as well as Google General Counsel Kent Walker said, “we’ve been on record for some time calling for comprehensive privacy legislation in the past years” when he was asked about Google’s position on a U.S. federal privacy bill. Walker also pointed to Google’s recent release of principles it supports as part of a federal bill.

Last but not least, Microsoft Corporate Vice President and Deputy General Counsel Julie Brill eventually stated that Microsoft has extended many of the GDPR’s protection measures to their entire customer base and has been a supporter of a U.S. federal privacy bill since 2005. In particular, Brill endorsed a “strong, robust, and horizontally effective baseline privacy legislation.” She further ensured that at Microsoft people are using their voice as strongly as they could to encourage that to take place.

Bearing in mind the data scandals around – in particular – Google and Facebook, and the rather low data protection standards in the U.S., it seems that at least four representatives of the top seven tech companies in the world endorse a new U.S. federal privacy bill and will encourage in supporting an adequate privacy standard around the globe. Regarding the actual stance of the Trump administration, FTC Commissioner and recent Trump appointee Noah Phillips, gave an indication about how this subject will be treated. According to his personal opinion, such a regulation should be done “only if necessary and then very carefully.” Being asked whether the U.S. has the right laws in place to regulate technology appropriately, or whether there were any gaps, he replied, “that is a big question we are debating right now in the United States.”

Yahoo agreed to pay US$ 85 million after data breaches in 2013 and 2014

24. October 2018

As part of a court settlement filed Monday, Yahoo agreed to pay $50 million in damages and to provide two-years of free credit monitoring for services to 200 million people.

Around 3 billion Yahoo accounts were hacked in 2013 and 2014 but the company, which is now owned by Verizon, did not disclose the breach until 2016. Affected are U.S. and Israel residents and small businesses with Yahoo accounts at any time from January 1, 2012 to December 31, 2016. Apart from usernames and email addresses, millions of birthdates and security questions and answers were stolen. Not among the stolen information were passwords, credit card numbers and bank account information.

According to the settlement, the fund will compensate accountholders who paid for email services, who had out-of-pocket losses or who already have credit monitoring services. A refund of $25 per hour will be made for the time spent handling issues caused by the breach. Those with documented losses can ask for up to 15 hours of lost time ($375) whereas those who cannot document losses can ask for up to 5 hours ($125).

A hearing to approve the preliminary settlement is scheduled for November 29.

Facebook may face up to $1.63 Billion Fine in Europe after Data Breach

2. October 2018

Ireland’s Data Protection Commission, the company’s lead privacy regulator in the EU, could fine Facebook Inc. up to $1.63 billion for a data breach disclosed Friday, reports the Wall Street Journal. Hackers compromised the accounts of at least 50 million users, bypassing security measures and possibly giving them full control of both profiles and linked apps.

The Commission is now requesting more information on the scale and nature of the data breach in order to find out which EU residents could be affected. Facebook announced that it would respond to follow-up questions. The incident results in the latest legal threat Facebook is facing from U.S. and European officials over its handling of user data and is a severe setback to their efforts to regain trust after a series of privacy and security breaches.

The way in which this data breach is handled by data protection authorities could mark one of the first important tests under the GDPR, which came into force in May earlier this year. The handling could provide conclusions regarding the application of breach-notifications and data-security provisions by companies in the future.
The law requires companies to notify data protection authorities of breaches within 72 hours, under threat of a maximum fine of 2% of worldwide revenue. Furthermore, under the GDPR companies that fail to safeguard their users’ data risk a maximum fine of €20 million ($23 million), or 4% of a firm’s global annual revenue for the prior year, whichever is higher. Taking the larger calculation as a basis Facebook’s maximum fine would be $1.63 billion.

Record fine for Uber

28. September 2018

Due to an initially concealed data breach in 2016, the U.S. company Uber has to pay a fine of €126 million, as the Attorney General Barbara Underwood announced in a statement.

On November 21, 2017, Uber announced that a hacker attack would take place in 2016, in which the hackers would capture approximately 50 million customer data as well as seven million data from Uber drivers. The company paid the hackers blackmail money instead of reporting the data breach (we reported).

Now a settlement was reached between Uber and the relevant US authorities. The settlement includes the highest fine ever imposed, $148 million (€126 million), flanked by further obligations to improve data security.

Category: Data breach · USA
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Facebook sues BlackBerry for patent infringement, claiming it stole Voice-Messaging Tech

5. September 2018

On Tuesday, September 5th, Facebook Inc. filed a lawsuit against BlackBerry Ltd., accusing the ladder of patent infringement, the news agency Bloomberg reports.

The complaint of the social media company contains the allegations that BlackBerry has been stealing its voice messaging technology. Furthermore, the accusation includes technology that improves how a mobile device delivers graphics, video and audio and another that centralizes tracking and analysis of GPS data.

According to Facebook a total of six patents are targeted, for which the company intends to claim unspecified damages in San Francisco federal court.

The lawsuit, in turn, follows BlackBerrys’ lawsuit in march, accusing the company of infringement on its mobile messaging tech for its own messenger, as well as its Instagram photo sharing app and WhatsApp messaging service.

Category: General · Instagram · USA
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