Posts from November 2009.
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On November 12, 2009, the Federation of German Consumer Organisations (Verbraucherzentrale Bundesverband e.V., “vzbv”), a non-governmental organization acting as an umbrella for 41 German consumer associations announced that the social networks Xing, MySpace, Facebook, Lokalisten, Wer-kennt-Wen and StudiVZ signed undertakings that they would discontinue use of certain terms and conditions and data protection provisions.  The vzbv sent warning notices to the six leading social network providers regarding a number of clauses.

The main criticism from vzbv referred to ...

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On November 24, 2009, the European Parliament formally approved the European Union's telecoms reform package.  This reform proposed by the European Commission in November 2007 consists of various different EU Directives that set-up the legal framework applicable to the electronic communications sector (telecoms) and includes a new e-Privacy Directive.

New provisions of the e-Privacy Directive will strengthen the protection of privacy and personal data in the electronic communication sector and includes the following:

  • mandatory notification for personal data breaches ...
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On October 29, 2009, the European Commission (the “Commission”) proceeded to the second phase of infringement proceedings against the UK relating to the UK’s implementation of EU e-privacy and personal data protection laws.  EU Member States must ensure the confidentiality of communications by prohibiting interception and surveillance without user's consent.  The Commission maintains that the UK has failed to fully implement these requirements into its national laws and has identified three specific flaws in the existing UK laws governing the confidentiality of electronic communications:

  • The UK does not have an independent national authority responsible for (i) supervising the interception of communications and (ii) complaints about unlawful interception of electronic communications, despite the requirement to this effect contained within EU laws and imposed on Member States;
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Today, eight federal financial regulatory agencies issued a final Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act ("GLBA") model privacy notice.  The final model notice incorporates financial institutions' required disclosures pursuant to Section 503 of the GLBA.  The GLBA requires, in relevant part, that financial institutions provide consumers with information regarding their collection and sharing of nonpublic personal information.  Financial institutions that adopt the final model notice will be deemed in compliance with the GLBA notice requirements.  The final model notice is the result of the agencies' consumer research and testing.  It is touted as succinct, easy to use and consumer friendly. The final model notice will take effect 30 days after publication in the Federal Register. Publication is anticipated shortly.

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On November 6, 2009, the French Senate proposed a new draft law to reinforce the right to privacy in the digital age (“Proposition de loi visant à garantir le droit à la vie privée à l’heure du numérique”) (the “Draft Law”).  Following a Report on the same topic issued last spring, the Senate made concrete proposals with this Draft Law to amend the Data Protection Act.

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On November 9, 2009, Connecticut’s Attorney General, Richard Blumenthal, announced an investigation of whether Blue Cross and Blue Shield (“BCBS”) violated Connecticut’s data breach notification law by waiting until two months after a data breach had occurred to notify affected Connecticut residents.  The data breach, which Attorney General Blumenthal called “one of the most sizable and significant in Connecticut’s history,” involved the theft of a laptop containing confidential unencrypted data from the car of a BCBS employee in late August.  BCBS notified affected Connecticut residents of the breach in late October.

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In a closed session on November 5, 2009, the 31st International Conference of Data Protection and Privacy Commissioners adopted the International Standards on the Protection of Personal Data and Privacy (the “Standards”).  Although the document is advisory in nature and is not legally binding, it offers guidance to States that have not yet adopted comprehensive data protection laws.  The Spanish Data Protection Agency, which acted as the secretariat for drafting the Standards, held two meetings that included more than fifty privacy enforcement agencies, privacy advocates and businesses before hosting a final drafting session that was reserved for recognized data protection authorities.

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Every year since 2005, the United States, the European Commission and the Article 29 Working Party on Data Protection meet to review the latest developments in the U.S.-EU Safe Harbor Framework, as well as changes in privacy compliance, information security and data protection.  This year’s  International Conference on Cross Border Data Flows, Data Protection and Privacy occurs November 16 - 18 and features leading experts who will examine these issues and others, as well as changes made to the approval process for binding corporate rules.  Join our privacy professionals, Martin ...
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On November 9, 2009, the UK's Ministry of Justice launched a consultation seeking the public's views on the proposed implementation of a maximum penalty of £500,000 (approximately US$837,950) for serious breaches of the UK Data Protection Act 1998 (the "DPA").  This Consultation follows the Information Commissioners' publication of draft guidance this week, explaining the circumstances in which a fine will be imposed.  The launch of the Consultation puts to rest recent speculation as to the level of fine likely to be imposed for a deliberate or serious breach of the DPA, including for data security breaches.

The DPA imposes obligations on data controllers that process personal data to: (i) process personal data fairly and lawfully; (ii) obtain personal data only for specified lawful purposes, and not further process personal data in any manner incompatible with such purposes; (iii) ensure that personal data are adequate, relevant and not excessive in relation to the purposes for which they are processed; (iv) ensure that personal data are accurate and, where necessary, kept up-to-date; (v) keep personal data only for as long as is necessary for the purposes for which they are collected; (vi) process personal data in accordance with individuals' rights; (vii) implement appropriate technical and organizational measures against unauthorized or unlawful processing of personal data and against accidental loss or destruction of, or damage to, personal data; and (viii) not transfer personal data to a jurisdiction outside the European Economic Area unless that jurisdiction affords adequate protection levels for individuals' rights and freedoms in relation to the processing of personal data.

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In 1980, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (“OECD”) first published privacy guidelines that included an accountability principle.  Since that time, little work has been done to define accountability or to describe what it means for organizations to be accountable for the responsible use and protection of data.  In an effort to fill that gap, The Centre for Information Policy Leadership has authored “Data Protection Accountability: The Essential Elements” which articulates the conditions organizations would have to meet to be accountable.  The Accountability paper is the result of the Galway Accountability Project, an initiative facilitated by Ireland’s Office of the Data Protection Commissioner and co-sponsored by the OECD.  As the project’s secretariat, the Centre served as principal drafter of the Accountability paper, which considers the concept of accountability as it applies in the current data environment where data collection and use is ubiquitous, data flows are difficult or impossible to track, and jurisdictional issues abound as data crosses national borders.  The Galway Project enlisted specialists from twelve countries, and the participation of privacy protection agencies from Europe, Asia and North America.  Consumer advocates and business representatives also took part.  The Accountability paper will bring a critical international perspective to the dialogue on changing privacy law in Europe, the United States and Canada.

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Janet Napolitano, Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, and Alfredo Perez Rubalcaba, the Spanish Minister of the Interior, spoke in contrasting tones today of the difficulties of finding the right balance between security and privacy.  The theme "Striving for a Balance Between Security and Privacy" was debated during the first plenary session of the 31st International Conference of Data Protection and Privacy Commissioners in Madrid.

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On October 30, as reported by the Bureau of National Affairs (“BNA”), the Massachusetts Office of Consumer Affairs and Business Regulation stated that final amendments to its information security regulations had been filed with the Massachusetts Secretary of State.  The Standards for the Protection of Personal Information of Residents of the Commonwealth have been the subject of much commentary and a series of amendments as regulators seek to address concerns expressed by businesses over the stringent and specific nature of the regulations.  The most recent round of amendments was announced August 17, 2009.


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