Category: USA

Massachusetts Approved Amendments to Data Breach Notification Law

15. January 2019

Massachusetts’ data breach law has been significantly amended by the legislation signed by Gov. Charlie Baker on 10th January becoming effective as of 11th April this year. An overview of the key changes can be found following.

The amended law requires companies to provide certain additional information when notifying the Massachusetts Attorney General and the Office of Consumer Affairs and Business Regulation about a breach of security or the reasonable believe of the existence such a breach. This information include, but are not limited to “the nature of the breach of  security or unauthorized acquisition or use”, the types of personal information compromised (e.g. social security numbers), “the number of residents affected by the incident at the time of notification”, the person responsible for the breach – if known -, and whether the entity maintains a written information security program according to Massachusetts 201 CMR § 17.03.

A further update concerns the notice of the affected individuals. The amended law explicitly sets out a rolling notification to individuals under certain circumstances and prohibits therefore a company from delaying notice to affected individuals referring to the ground that the total number of individuals affected has not yet been determined. “In such case, and where otherwise necessary to update or correct the information required, a person or agency shall provide additional notice as soon as practicable and without unreasonable delay upon learning such additional information.”
If the company experiencing a data security incident is owned by another entity, the particular notification to the affected individual must specify “the name of the parent or affiliated corporation”.

Another significant change to the data breach law refers to the requirement of providing an offer of complimentary credit monitoring for “a period of not less than 18 months” (42 months, if the company is a consumer reporting agency) when a Massachusetts resident’s Social Security number has been compromised, or is reasonably believed to have been compromised, in a data security incident.  Also, Companies must certify their credit monitoring services to the Massachusetts attorney general and the Director of the Office of Consumer Affairs and Business Regulation in order to demonstrate compliance with the respective Massachusetts state law. Companies must eventually provide the credit monitoring services at no costs to the affected residents and are prohibited from asking them to waive their right to a private action as a condition for the reception of such services.

However, when these amendments become effective, beside Connecticut and Delaware, Massachusetts will have become one of those states providing a credit monitoring obligation when residents’ Social Security numbers are concerned by a breach of security. In fact, according to Public Act No. 18-90 that substitutes Senate Bill No. 472, Connecticut recently increased the required period of credit monitoring to be provided to the affected individuals from 12 to 24 months.

Data breaches in US-American healthcare sector discovered

4. January 2019

In the last weeks, several data breaches in different US states were discovered. The latest one occurred in the Choice Rehabilitation Center based in Missouri. Data of 4,309 patients was breached in a hack on a corporate email account from July 1 until the end of September. Choice discovered the hack in November and started an investigation after consulting with Microsoft. Provider’s emails were forwarded to a personal account, which was later deactivated.

The sent emails contained billing data for different medical services such as physical or speech therapy services. These included for example patient names, medical record numbers, treatment information, diagnoses and the beginning and end of treatment dates.

Just a few weeks before, the largest healthcare breach of 2018 became public. Due to a cyberattack on the health’s systems billing vendor AccuDoc Solutions, data of more than 2.65 million Atrium Health patients was breached. AccuDoc Solutions prepares bills and operates the online billing system for Atrium Health, which is a hospital network that comprises 44 hospitals in Georgia, North Carolina and South Carolina.

The compromised database contained data of patients and guarantors, comprising full names, addresses, dates of birth, insurance policy details, medical record numbers, account balances and dates of service. 700,000 patient’s social security numbers were also among the hacked data.

However, financial data such as credit card numbers are not affected. Even though the data breach is contained to AccuDoc Solutions, Atrium Health has hired a team to investigate the occurrence and has reviewed its security precautions. Those patients whose Social Security numbers were hacked are being offered one year of free credit monitoring.

USA: Call for National Privacy Law

28. December 2018

The Association of National Advertisers (ANA) is urging the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to work towards a national privacy legislation and prevent fragmentation of the U.S. privacy landscape.
In its plea, the ANA specifically raises concerns about current developments regarding the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA). It deems both legislations to be overly restrictive and threatening to the free flow of information that “is vital to delivering the products and services that consumers value and expect” and asks the FTC to carry out a detailed review of the effects of the GDPR and the CCPA on competition and consumers.

The ANA is worried as “other states are considering additional and potentially inconsistent privacy and data security laws” and has been working with member companies and other industry groups to develop a new privacy paradigm that would be enforced by the FTC as a single national standard.

The approach involves allowing companies to use data considered “per se reasonable,” and prohibiting uses of data deemed “per se unreasonable.”
The reasonable practices “could include the collection and use of non-sensitive data for advertising purposes with consumer transparency and choice,” the ANA writes. Unreasonable ones “could include determining adverse terms or conditions or ineligibility for an individual’s: employment; credit; health care treatment; insurance; education and financial aid”.

The comments were filed in response to a request for input on the February 2019 FTC Hearing on Competition and Consumer Protection in the 21st Century, which will focus on consumer privacy.

Google changes Privacy Policy due to GDPR

19. December 2018

As it is widely known these days, the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) came into force earlier this year to standardize data protection regulation in the EU. This has now lead to the fact that Google will update the company’s terms of service and privacy policy to be compliant with the GDPR.

The company started to notify the countries in the European Economic Area (EEA) and Switzerland in regard to some upcoming changes. They will come into effect on January 22, 2019.

The most important update, also legally, is the change of the data controller. The Google Ireland Limited will become the so called “data controller” who is responsible for the information of European and Swiss users . Therefore, Google Ireland Limited will be in charge to respond to request from users and to ensure compliance with the GDPR. At present, these services are provided by Google LLC, based in the U.S.

For website operators this means that they might also have to adapt their privacy policy accordingly. This is the case, for example, if Google Analytics is used.

Furthermore, there are no changes in regard to the current settings and services.

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.

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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