Posts from April 2009.
Time 1 Minute Read

On March 17, 2009, the Article 29 Working Party released Opinion 3/2009 on the Commission’s draft decision for standard contractual clauses (SCCs), which discusses proposed updates of the clauses allowing the transfer of personal data to sub-processors established in third-world countries, in light of increased global outsourcing practices. Opinion 3/2009 is available here, and further analysis on the Working Party’s Opinion is available here.

To read more and for more EU data protection updates, please click here.

Time 2 Minute Read

Last week, the Federal Trade Commission published a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking regarding notification for security breaches involving electronic health information. The FTC issued the proposal pursuant to certain health information technology provisions in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, signed into law on February 17th, 2009. The Commission's proposal includes a requirement that vendors of personal health records notify U.S. citizens and residents if their personal health information is subject to a security breach. In addition, vendors must notify the FTC no later than five business days following the discovery of a breach that affects 500 or more individuals, or, for breaches affecting fewer than 500 individuals, maintain a log to be submitted annually to the Commission.

Time 4 Minute Read

On April 17, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services ("HHS") issued proposed information security guidance, as required by the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health Act (the "HITECH Act") passed as part of American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 on February 17.  The HITECH Act requires covered entities and business associates, as well as vendors of personal health records, to provide notice of information security breaches affecting “unsecured protected health information” or “unsecured personal health record information,” respectively.  The HITECH Act further requires the Secretary of HHS to specify technologies and methodologies that would render protected health information ("PHI") unusable, unreadable, or indecipherable to unauthorized individuals.  If covered entities, business associates and vendors of personal health records apply the technologies and methodologies specified in the guidance to protected health information, they will not be required to provide notice to affected individuals, HHS or the media, as otherwise required by the HITECH Act, in the event the information is breached.

Time 4 Minute Read

Following numerous complaints about the use of behavioral advertising technology by internet service providers, the European Commission (the “Commission”) launched infringement proceedings against the United Kingdom for an alleged failure to keep people’s online details confidential. The EU Telecoms Commissioner, Viviane Reding, has called upon the UK to change its national laws to ensure the confidentiality of communications by prohibiting interception and surveillance without the user's consent. If the UK does not comply, the Commission can issue a final warning before taking the UK to the European Court of Justice.

Time 2 Minute Read

News last week that Chinese and Russian hackers had infiltrated the U.S. electrical power grid gave practical significance to already high-profile issues in Washington -- how better to secure the nation’s cyber-infrastructure.  Late in 2008, the Center for Strategic and International Studies Commission on Cyber Security for the 44th Presidency (the Commission) released a report citing the U.S.’s failure to protect cyberspace as “one of the most urgent national security problems” facing the Obama administration.  The failure threatens the safety and well-being of the United States and its allies and raises immediate risks for the economy.  In a global economy, where economic strength and technological leadership are as important to national power as military force, failing to secure cyberspace puts the U.S. at a disadvantage.  When Chinese and Russian intruders apparently left software on networks supporting the U.S. power grid that could be used to compromise electric and water systems, the warnings of the Commission proved true in a real-world way.

Time 4 Minute Read

Federal Trade Commission Chairman Jon Leibowitz has appointed six senior staff members with extensive experience in the private sector, in the public interest community, in academia, and in government.

“We’re delighted to attract such a talented and creative group of people,” Leibowitz said. “Their leadership and expertise will help ensure that the Commission’s work on behalf of American consumers will continue to be effective. We’re very fortunate.”

Time 3 Minute Read

The mere increased risk of identity theft following a data breach is sufficient to give the data subjects standing to bring a lawsuit in federal court but, absent actual identity theft or other actual harm, claims against the data owner and its service provider for negligence and breach of contract cannot survive, a federal judge ruled this month.  Ruiz v. Gap, Inc., et al., No. 07-5739 SC (N.D. Cal. April 6, 2009).

Plaintiff Joel Ruiz brought a putative class action against Gap, Inc. and its service provider Vangent, Inc. after a thief stole a laptop computer from Vangent containing unencrypted Social Security numbers and other personal information of Ruiz and approximately 750,000 other Gap job applicants.  Shortly after the theft, Gap notified Ruiz and the other applicants of the breach and offered them 12 months of free credit monitoring and fraud assistance.  Ruiz sought damages under various theories, including negligence (failure to exercise due care to protect the data) and breach of contract (breach of the security provisions of Gap’s contract with Vangent, under the theory that Ruiz was a third-party beneficiary of the contract).

Time 2 Minute Read

Various authorities, both at a European and a national level, are currently addressing the issue of online behavioral advertising. On March 31, 2009, Meglena Kuneva, the European Commissioner for Consumer Affairs, gave a keynote address in Brussels in which she raised the issue of online behavioral advertising and addressed the need to enhance consumer protection related to the practice. While recognizing the numerous beneficial applications for consumers made possible by the Internet, Kuneva expressed her concern that the World Wide Web could become the “world wide west” and called for a better balance between the interests of businesses and consumers. 

Time 6 Minute Read

On March 20, 2009, the Federal Trade Commission (“FTC”) published its long-awaited guide to the Red Flags Rule (the “Rule”), entitled “Fighting Fraud with Red Flags Rule:  A How-To Guide for Business.”  The guide applies to creditors and certain financial institutions (such as state-chartered credit unions and mutual funds that offer accounts with check-writing privileges) that are subject to the FTC’s jurisdiction and addresses the provision of the Rule that requires implementation of an Identity Theft Prevention Program.  For entities subject to the FTC’s jurisdiction, the relevant compliance deadline is May 1, 2009.  Financial institutions that are regulated by federal bank regulatory agencies or the National Credit Union Administration (which issues their own versions of the Red Flags Rule) were required to comply with the Rule as of November 1, 2008.


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