Posts tagged Federal Trade Commission.
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On March 20, 2024, the U.S. House of Representatives passed legislation that will prohibit data brokers from transferring U.S. residents’ sensitive personal data to foreign adversaries, including China and Russia. The House bill HR 7520 (the “Bill”), also known as the Protecting Americans’ Data from Foreign Adversaries Act of 2024, marks a significant development in executive and legislative action related to foreign access to U.S. data. The Bill follows a similarly groundbreaking Executive Order and Department of Justice Notice of Proposed Rulemaking issued at the end of February that will establish strict protective measures against data exploitation by countries considered national security threats for U.S. sensitive personal data and U.S. government-related data. The Bill also comes after the House overwhelmingly passed HR 7521, (the Protecting Americans from Foreign Adversary Controlled Applications Act) resulting from concerns that the Chinese government would compel TikTok (or other foreign adversary-controlled apps) to turn over U.S. data. HR 7521 would effectively require TikTok to divest from parent company ByteDance in order to avoid a ban in the U.S.

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After potential warning signs spanning several years, on March 14, 2024, the Federal Trade Commission brought an enforcement action against two entities selling virus protection software to consumers via online and telemarketing sales. According to the FTC’s complaint, for several years the entities, Restoro Cyprus Limited and Reimage Cyprus Limited, received excessive chargebacks on purchases, numerous consumer complaints made directly to the entities, and various indirect consumer complaints made to vendors, telecoms service providers and others. 

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On March 8, 2024, the Centre for Information Policy Leadership at Hunton Andrews Kurth (“CIPL”) filed its response to the Federal Trade Commission’s notice of proposed rulemaking (“NPRM”), which addresses amendments to the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Rule (“COPPA Rule”).

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As reported by Bloomberg Law, on February 27, 2024, at RemedyFest, a conference hosted by Bloomberg Beta and Y Combinator, Federal Trade Commission Chair Lina Khan said that sensitive personal data that is linked to health, geolocation and web browsing history should be excluded from training artificial intelligence (“AI”) models.

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The Federal Trade Commission held its eighth annual privacy conference, PrivacyCon, on March 6, 2024. The goal of PrivacyCon is to assemble researchers, academics, industry representatives, consumer advocates and government regulators to consider and discuss cutting-edge research and trends related to consumer privacy and data security. This year’s conference consisted of remarks by FTC Commissioners Lina Khan, Alvaro Bedoya and Rebecca Kelly Slaughter, and a total of seven panels including “Economics”, “Privacy Enhancing Technologies,” “Artificial ...

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On February 22, 2024, the Federal Trade Commission announced a settlement order against Avast Limited (“Avast”) requiring Avast to pay $16.5 million and prohibiting Avast from selling or licensing any web browsing data for advertising purposes. This ban is to settle charges that the company and its subsidiaries sold such information to third parties after promising that its products would protect consumers from online tracking.

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On February 15, 2024, the Federal Trade Commission proposed a rule that would ban the use of AI to impersonate individuals, which would extend protections of a recently finalized FTC rule against government and business impersonation.  The FTC announced a public comment period for a supplemental Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (“NPR”) regarding the proposed rule that ends 60 days after being published in the Federal Register. The FTC’s swift action is in response to an AI-generated robocall mimicking President Biden that encouraged voters not to vote in the New Hampshire primary. FTC Chair Lina Khan described the FTC’s supplemental NPR as a key step in “strengthening the FTC’s toolkit to address AI-enabled scams impersonating individuals,” as malicious actors “us[e] AI tools to impersonate individuals with eerie precision and at a much wider scale.”

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Hunton Andrews Kurth is hosting a webinar discussing the Federal Trade Commission’s proposed revisions to the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Rule (i.e., the COPPA Rule) on February 20, 2024, at 12:00 p.m. (ET). Hunton partners Phyllis Marcus and Lisa Sotto will discuss the FTC’s recent proposal to strengthen federal protections for children’s privacy and the implications of the new changes, if enacted, for organizations. Register for the program now.

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On February 1, 2024, the Federal Trade Commission announced a proposed settlement with Blackbaud Inc. (“Blackbaud”) in connection with alleged security failures that resulted in a breach of the company’s network and access to the personal data of millions of consumers. As part of the settlement, Blackbaud will be required to comply with a variety of obligations, including deleting personal data that the company does not have a need to retain.

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On January 18, 2024, the Federal Trade Commission announced a proposed order against geolocation data broker InMarket Media (“InMarket”), barring the company from selling or licensing precise location data. According to the FTC’s charges, InMarket failed to obtain informed consent from users of applications developed by the company and its third-party partners.  

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On January 9, 2024, in its first settlement with a data broker concerning the collection and sale of sensitive location information, the Federal Trade Commission announced a proposed order against data broker X-Mode Social, Inc. and its successor Outlogic, LLC (“X-Mode”) for unfair and deceptive acts or practices in violation of Section 5 of the FTC Act.

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On January 9, 2024, the Federal Trade Commission published a blog post reminding artificial intelligence (“AI”) “model-as-a-service” companies to uphold the privacy commitments they make to customers, including promises made in Terms of Service agreements, promotional materials and online marketplaces.  

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On December 20, 2023, the FTC issued a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (“Notice”), which would bring long-anticipated changes to the children’s online data privacy regime at the federal level in the U.S. The Notice sets forth several important proposals aimed at strengthening the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act Rule (“COPPA Rule”). The COPPA Rule has not been updated since 2012. The FTC received over 176,000 comments in response to its call to comment on updating the COPPA Rule.

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On November 16, 2023, the Federal Trade Commission released a proposed order in connection with a complaint filed in August of 2020 against Global Tel*Link Corp. (“GTL”) and its subsidiaries, Telmate and TouchPay, which offers communication and payment services for incarcerated individuals. The complaint centered around a security breach where a technician for a vendor of GTL placed unencrypted, personally identifiable information in a test environment to test a new search and storage software. The test environment allegedly was accessible on the internet without password protections which permitted an unauthorized actor to access and exfiltrate the data between August 11-13, 2020. Though GTL restricted access to the test environment, GTL allegedly failed to notify its customers for roughly nine months, while also falsely representing to prospective customers that it had never experienced a security breach.

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On October 30, 2023, the Federal Trade Commission announced that it is sending nearly $100 million in refunds to consumers who were harmed as a result of internet phone service provider Vonage’s alleged use of dark patterns and other obstacles that made it difficult for users to cancel their service.

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On October 27, 2023, the Federal Trade Commission announced that it has approved an amendment to the Safeguards Rule that would require non-banking institutions to report certain data breaches to the FTC. The FTC’s Safeguards Rule currently requires certain types of non-banking financial institutions, such as mortgage brokers, motor vehicle dealers, and payday lenders, to develop, implement and maintain a comprehensive security program to keep their customers’ information safe. The amendment will require such financial institutions to notify the FTC as soon as possible, and no later than 30 days after discovery, of a security breach involving the unauthorized acquisition of unencrypted customer  information of at least 500 consumers. The notice to the FTC will need to include certain information about the event, such as the number of consumers affected or potentially affected.

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On September 19, 2023, the Director of the Federal Trade Commission Bureau of Consumer Protection, Samuel Levine, delivered remarks that provided insight into the FTC’s ongoing strategy for regulating artificial intelligence (“AI”) during the National Advertising Division’s annual conference. Levine emphasized that the FTC is taking a more proactive approach to protect consumers from the harmful uses of AI, while ensuring the market remains fair, open, and competitive. Levine expressed the belief that self-regulation is not sufficient to address the regulation of ...

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On September 14, 2023, the Federal Trade Commission issued a press release announcing the publication of a staff paper about blurred advertising. In the staff paper, the FTC describes blurred advertising as the blending of ads with digital media content (e.g., displaying ads within online games and virtual reality worlds). The FTC warns that these ads are not readily identifiable as marketing by consumers and pose a significant threat to young children who do not have the skills or cognitive defenses to identify and understand this type of advertising. The FTC recommends that ...

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On September 15, 2023, the Federal Trade Commission and the Department of Health and Human Services (“HHS”) published an updated version of the two agencies’ joint publication, entitled “Collecting, Using, or Sharing Consumer Health Information? Look to HIPAA, the FTC Act, and the Health Breach Notification Rule.” 

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On September 7, 2023, Lina M. Khan, Chair of the Federal Trade Commission, announced that the FTC will hold an open meeting virtually at 11 am ET on Thursday, September 14, 2023.  The agenda of the open meeting includes a vote by the FTC on whether to release a staff perspective and recommendations on the blurring of advertising and content on digital media and its effects on children and teens.

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On August 14, 2023, the Federal Trade Commission announced a proposed order against Experian Consumer Services (“Experian”) for failure to comply with the federal CAN-SPAM Act.  The complaint alleges that Experian sent marketing emails that did not provide an unsubscribe opportunity to consumers who had signed up for Experian’s credit monitoring services. The CAN-SPAM Act requires businesses to, in relevant part, clearly and conspicuously display a return email address or Internet-based mechanism that allows consumers to unsubscribe from future marketing emails. While the Experian emails contained a notice stating that the messages related to the consumer’s Experian account (which would make them “transactional” or “relationship” messages under the CAN-SPAM Act, and therefore exempt from the unsubscribe requirement), the complaint alleged that, in actuality, the emails contained only marketing material.

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On July 25, 2023, Hunton published a client alert discussing the importance of cyber and directors and officers (“D&O”) liability insurance for companies and their executives to guard against cyber-related exposures. In today’s ever-changing threat landscape, all organizations are at risk of damaging cyber incidents and resulting investigations and lawsuits, underscoring the importance of utilizing all tools in a company’s risk mitigation toolkit, including insurance, to address these exposures. 

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On May 31, 2023, the Federal Trade Commission announced a proposed order against home security camera company Ring LLC (“Ring”) for unfair and deceptive acts or practices in violation of Section 5 of the FTC Act.

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On May 22, 2023, the Federal Trade Commission filed an amicus brief in support of a ruling by the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit that COPPA does not preempt state laws claims that are consistent with COPPA.

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On May 22, 2023, the Federal Trade Commission announced a proposed order against education technology provider Edmodo, LLC (“Edmodo”) for violations of the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Rule (“COPPA Rule”) and Section 5 of the FTC Act.

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On May 18, 2023, the Federal Trade Commission announced it is seeking comment to proposed changes to the Health Breach Notification Rule (the “Rule”). The Rule requires  vendors of personal health records (“PHR”), PHR-related entities and service providers to these entities, to notify consumers and the FTC (and, in some cases, the media) in the event of a breach of unsecured identifiable health information, including cybersecurity intrusions and other instances of unauthorized access. By clarifying the Rule’s scope and applicability, and by modernizing allowable methods of notice, the proposed amendments seek to update the Rule to account for technological change since the Rule’s issuance, which includes the proliferation of health apps and connected devices, and the emergence of a widespread market for health data.

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On May 17, 2023, the Federal Trade Commission issued a consumer alert regarding the Premom Ovulation Tracker app (“Premom”) sharing sensitive information with third parties without users’ permission. According to the alert, Premom is a free app that is marketed as an accurate fertility calendar, which can be used to assist users who are trying to become pregnant.

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On May 18, 2023, the Federal Trade Commission issued a policy statement on “Biometric Information and Section 5 of the Federal Trade Commission Act.”  The statement warns that the use of consumer biometric information and related technologies raises “significant concerns” regarding privacy, data security, and bias and discrimination, and makes clear the FTC’s commitment to combatting unfair or deceptive acts and practices related to the collection and use of consumers’ biometric information and the marketing and use of biometric information technologies.

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On April 25, 2023, officials from the Federal Trade Commission, Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (“CFPB”), Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division (“DOJCRD”) and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) released a Joint Statement on Enforcement Efforts against Discrimination and Bias in Automated Systems (“Statement”), also sometimes referred to as “artificial intelligence” (“AI”).

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On March 16, 2023, the Federal Trade Commission announced it issued orders to eight social media and video streaming platforms seeking Special Reports on how the platforms review and monitor commercial advertising to detect, prevent and reduce deceptive advertisements, including those related to fraudulent healthcare products, financial scams and the sale of fake goods. The FTC sent the orders pursuant to its resolution directing the FTC to use all available compulsory process to inquire into this topic, and using the FTC’s Section 6(b) authority, which authorizes the FTC to conduct studies that do not have a specific law enforcement purpose.

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On March 2, 2023, the FTC announced a proposed order against BetterHelp, Inc., an online mental health counseling service, for sharing consumer data, including sensitive mental health information, with third parties for targeted advertising and other purposes. The FTC’s proposed order is notable, in that it is the first such order that would return funds to consumers whose health data was affected.

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On February 17, 2023, the Federal Trade Commission announced the launch of their new Office of Technology. The Office of Technology will assist the FTC by strengthening and supporting law enforcement investigations and actions, advising and engaging with staff and the Commission on policy and research initiatives, and engaging with the public and relevant experts to identify market trends, emerging technologies and best practices. The Office will have dedicated staff and resources and be headed by Chief Technology Officer Stephanie T. Nguyen.

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On February 1, 2023, the Federal Trade Commission announced that it entered into a proposed order with GoodRx, a telehealth and prescription drug discount provider, for violations of the FTC’s Health Breach Notification Rule stemming from GoodRx’s unauthorized disclosures of consumers’ personal health information to third party advertisers and other companies. This is the first enforcement action taken under the FTC’s Health Breach Notification Rule, which was issued in 2009.

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On January 25, 2023, Hunton Andrews Kurth’s retail industry team released its annual Retail Industry in Review publication, which provides an overview of key issues and trends that impacted the retail sector in the past year, as well as a preview of relevant legal issues retailers can expect to arise in 2023. This year’s publication highlights key topics including cyber insurance, cybersecurity and privacy accountability, M&A activity, regulation and litigation related to PFAS, labor organizing, developments in ESG disclosure and more.

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On December 19, 2022, the Federal Trade Commission announced two settlements, amounting to $520 million, with Epic Games, Inc. in connection with alleged violations of the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act Rule (the “COPPA Rule”) and alleged use of “dark patterns” relating to in-game purchases.

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On December 7, 2022, the Federal Trade Commission released an updated Mobile Health App Interactive Tool to help developers determine what federal laws and regulations apply to apps that collect and process health data. The updated version of the tool, which revises the initial release in 2016, aims to assist developers of mobile apps that will access, collect, share, use or maintain information related to an individual consumer’s health, such as information related to diagnosis, treatment, fitness, wellness or addiction.

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On December 7, 2022, the Federal Trade Commission released a tentative agenda for its Open Commission Meeting, which will take place on December 14, 2022. The event will feature opening remarks by FTC Chair Lina Khan, and include a presentation by the Chief Technology Officer’s team on the FTC’s data security efforts.

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On November 22, 2022, the Department of Commerce’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration (“NTIA”) announced that it filed comments with the Federal Trade Commission that call for new limits on how companies can collect and use personal information about consumers. The comments were filed in response to the FTC’s request for public comment on its Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking on commercial surveillance and lax data security practices.

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On November 21, 2022, the Centre for Information Policy Leadership (“CIPL”) at Hunton Andrews Kurth filed comments on the Federal Trade Commission’s Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (“ANPR”) on commercial surveillance and data security. The ANPR sought public comment on, among other things, whether the FTC should implement new rules addressing the ways in which companies collect, aggregate, protect, use, analyze and retain consumer data.

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On November 15, 2022, the Federal Trade Commission announced a six-month extension for companies to comply with certain updated requirements of the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act’s Safeguards Rule, a set of data security provisions covered  financial institutions must implement to protect their customers’ personal information. The new deadline is June 9, 2023.

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On October 26, 2022, House Energy and Commerce Committee and Consumer Protection and Commerce Subcommittee leaders (“Committee Leaders”) sent letters to several toy manufacturers, including Bandai Namco, Hasbro, Mattel, MGA Entertainment, LEGO Group and the Toy Association, asking how they plan to protect children and their information from BigTech companies like TikTok and YouTube. Given the shift of marketing efforts from traditional television outlets to social media platforms, Committee Leaders are concerned about failure to protect children’s privacy, security and mental health on social media platforms.

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On November 1, 2022, the Federal Trade Commission hosted their annual PrivacyCon 2022, which was available to the public via webcast. The FTC held seven different panels highlighting the latest research and trends in consumer privacy and data security.

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On November 3, 2022, the Federal Trade Commission announced a proposed order to settle an action against an internet phone service provider, Vonage, that would require Vonage to pay $100 million in refunds to customers harmed by its practices, which the FTC alleged included “dark patterns” that made it difficult for customers to cancel their service. The order also would require Vonage to not use dark patterns and provide a simple and transparent way for customers to cancel their service. 

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On October 31, 2022, the Federal Trade Commission announced a proposed settlement with education technology provider Chegg in connection with the company’s alleged poor cybersecurity practices. 

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On October 25, 2022, the Federal Trade Commission announced the agenda for its annual PrivacyCon to be held on November 1, 2022. The event will cover consumer surveillance, automated decision-making systems, children’s privacy, listening devices, augmented and virtual reality, interfaces and dark patterns, and AdTech.

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On October 24, 2022, the Federal Trade Commission announced a proposed consent order with Drizly, an online alcohol ordering and delivery service, and the company’s CEO, for the alleged failure to maintain appropriate security safeguards that led to a data breach that affected 2.5 million consumers’ personal information.

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On October 14, 2022, the Federal Trade Commission announced it is extending the deadline by one month to submit comments on its Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (“ANPR”) on commercial surveillance and lax data security practices.

The FTC launched the ANPR in August and has sought public comment on it, including through a virtual public forum held in September.

Comments now must be filed by November 21, 2022.

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On October 5, 2022, former Uber security chief Joe Sullivan was found guilty by a jury in U.S. federal court for his alleged failure to disclose a breach of Uber customer and driver data to the FTC in the midst of an ongoing FTC investigation into the company. Sullivan was charged with one count of obstructing an FTC investigation and one count of misprision, the act of concealing a felony from authorities.

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On September 21, 2022, the Federal Trade Commission announced the agenda for its “Protecting Kids from Stealth Advertising in Digital Media” virtual event to be held on October 19, 2022. The event will cover how children recognize and understand digital advertising content; the current advertising landscape’s impact on kids, including potential harms stemming from an inability to distinguish advertising from other content; and an assessment of the current legal regime’s protection of children from potential harms, and whether additional regulatory, self-regulatory, educational and technological tools may provide additional protection.

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On September 15, 2022, the Federal Trade Commission released a report analyzing “dark patterns,” or “design practices that trick or manipulate users into making choices they would not otherwise have made and that may cause harm.” The report, titled “Bringing Dark Patterns to Light,” highlights dark patterns used across industries and different contexts, such as e-commerce, cookie consent banners, children’s apps and subscription sales. The report identifies four common types of dark patterns and provides examples of each:

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On August 29, 2022, the Federal Trade Commission announced a civil action against digital marketing data broker Kochava Inc. for “selling geolocation data from hundreds of millions of mobile devices that can be used to trace the movements of individuals to and from sensitive locations.” The lawsuit seeks a permanent injunction to stop Kochava’s sale of geolocation data and to require the company to delete the geolocation data it has collected.  

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On September 8, 2022, the Federal Trade Commission hosted a virtual public forum on its Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (“ANPR”) concerning “commercial surveillance and lax data security.” The forum featured remarks from FTC Chair Lina Kahn, Commissioner Rebecca Kelly Slaughter and Commissioner Alvaro Bedoya, as well as panels with industry leaders and consumer advocates.

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On August 29, 2022, the Federal Trade Commission released the agenda for its virtual public forum on the Commercial Surveillance and Data Security Advanced Notice of Public Rulemaking. The forum, to be held on September 8, 2022, seeks “public comment on the harms stemming from commercial surveillance and lax data security practices and whether new rules are needed to protect people’s privacy and information.” As we previously reported, the forum intends to discuss to what extent commercial surveillance practices or lax security measures harm consumers, including children and teenagers; how the FTC should balance the costs and benefits of existing or emergent commercial surveillance and data security practices and rules that would address them; and how, if at all, the FTC should regulate harmful commercial surveillance or data security practices.

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On August 25, 2022, the FTC issued its Federal Trade Commission Report to Congress on COPPA Staffing, Enforcement and Remedies. The document was prepared in response to the joint explanatory statement accompanying the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2022, which directed the FTC to provide a report detailing (1) the current amount of resources and personnel focused on enforcing the COPPA Rule; (2) the number of investigations into violations of the COPPA Rule in the past five years; and (3) the types of relief obtained, if any, for completed COPPA investigations.

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On August 23, 2022, the Federal Trade Commission announced it is seeking additional public comment on “how children are affected by digital advertising and marketing messages that may blur the line between ads and entertainment” in conjunction with its “Protecting Kids from Stealth Advertising in Digital Media” event on October 19, 2022. The event will focus on manipulative marketing practices targeted towards children, particularly those related to influencer marketing and online games.

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On August 8, 2022, Commissioner Noah Joshua Phillips announced that he plans to resign from the Federal Trade Commission in the fall after serving four years with the agency. Phillips was appointed by former President Donald Trump in May 2018 and is one of the two Republican commissioners on the FTC alongside Commissioner Christine S. Wilson. Commissioner Phillips had served as chief counsel to Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) before joining the FTC.

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On August 11, 2022, the Federal Trade Commission announced it is seeking public comment regarding its advance notice of proposed rulemaking (“ANPR”) on commercial surveillance and data security, on which we previously reported. The FTC defines “commercial surveillance” as the business of collecting, analyzing and profiting from consumer data.

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On July 11, 2022, the Federal Trade Commission’s Bureau of Consumer Protection issued a business alert on businesses’ handling of sensitive data, with a particular focus on location and health data. The alert describes the “opaque” marketplace in which consumers’ location and health  data is collected and exchanged amongst businesses and the concerns and risks associated with the processing of such information. The alert specifically focuses on the “potent combination” of location data and user-generated health and biometric data (e.g., through the use of wellness and fitness apps and the sharing of face and other biometric data for app/device authentication purposes). According to the alert, the combination of location and health data “creates a new frontier of potential harms to consumers.”

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On July 8, 2022, President Biden issued an Executive Order titled, “Protecting Access to Reproductive Health Care Services,” in response to the Supreme Court’s decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization that overturned Roe v. Wade. The Executive Order aims, in part, to “ [p]rotect[] the privacy of patients and their access to accurate information” regarding reproductive health care services. It directs the Department of Health and Human Services (“HHS”) and the Federal Trade Commission to take certain steps to address the potential threat to patient privacy caused by the transfer and sale of sensitive health-related data, and by digital surveillance related to reproductive health care services from fraudulent schemes or deceptive practices.

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On June 22, 2022, the Federal Trade Commission submitted an updated abstract to the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs indicating that it is considering initiating a rulemaking under Section 18 of the FTC Act to curb lax security practices, limit privacy abuses, and ensure that algorithmic decision-making does not result in unlawful discrimination.

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On June 16, 2022, the Federal Trade Commission issued a report to Congress titled Combatting Online Harms Through Innovation (the “Report”) that urges policymakers and other stakeholders to exercise “great caution” about relying on artificial intelligence (“AI”) to combat harmful online content.

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On June 23, 2022, the U.S. House of Representatives Subcommittee on Consumer Protection and Commerce passed by voice vote H.R. 8152, the American Data Privacy and Protection Act (“ADPPA”). This bipartisan legislation, sponsored by House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Frank Pallone (D-NJ), committee Ranking Republican Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA), subcommittee Chairman Jan Schakowsky (D-IL) and subcommittee Ranking Republican Gus Bilirakis (R-FL), is based on the bipartisan, bicameral “Three Corners” draft bill released on June 2, 2022 with the support of Pallone, Rodgers and Senate Commerce Committee Ranking Republican Roger Wicker (R-MS). 

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On June 3, 2022, the Federal Trade Commission announced it is seeking public comment on its 2013 guidance, “.com Disclosures: How to Make Effective Disclosures in Digital Advertising” (the “Guidance”). The FTC indicated that it is updating the Guidance to better protect consumers against online deceptive practices, particularly because some companies have interpreted the current version of Guidance to “justify practices that mislead consumers online.” For example, the FTC explains that companies have wrongfully claimed they can avoid FTC Act liability by placing required disclosures behind hyperlinks. The updated Guidance will address issues such as advertising on social media, in video games, in virtual reality environments, and on mobile devices and applications, as well as the use of dark patterns, manipulative user interface designs, multi-party selling arrangements, hyperlinks and online disclosures.

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On June 3, 2022, House Energy and Commerce Chair Rep. Frank Pallone (D-NJ), Ranking Member Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA) and Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee Ranking Member Sen. Roger Wicker (R-MS) released a new comprehensive federal privacy bill, the American Data Privacy and Protection Act (“ADPPA”).

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On May 25, 2022, Twitter reached a proposed $150 million settlement with the Department of Justice (“DOJ”) and the Federal Trade Commission to resolve allegations that the company deceptively used nonpublic user contact information obtained for account security purposes to serve targeted ads to Twitter users. In a complaint filed in federal court, the government alleged that Twitter violated both the FTC Act and a 2011 FTC Order by misrepresenting the extent to which the company maintained and protected users’ nonpublic contact information. The proposed settlement would require Twitter to pay $150 million in civil penalties and implement a comprehensive privacy and information security program “with extensive procedures to safeguard user information and assess internal and external data privacy risks.”

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On May 19, 2022, the Federal Trade Commission will hold a virtual open meeting. The meeting’s tentative agenda includes a vote by the FTC on a policy statement prioritizing the enforcement of the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (“COPPA”) as it applies to the use of education technology. In response to the expanded use of education technology during the COVID-19 pandemic, the policy statement clarifies that parents and schools must not be required to sign up for surveillance as a condition of access to tools needed to learn. Members of the public who would like to ...
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On April 28, 2022, the Federal Trade Commission published a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (“NPRM”) and an Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (“ANPRM”), proposing several updates to the Telemarketing Sale Rules (“TSR”).

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On April 11, 2022, Federal Trade Commission Chair Lina Khan spoke at the opening of the International Association of Privacy Professionals’ Global Privacy Summit. This speech marks Khan’s first major privacy address since her appointment last June.

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On March 15, 2022, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) announced a proposed settlement with custom merchandise platform CafePress in connection with the company’s alleged failure to implement reasonable security measures, and its alleged attempt to cover up a 2019 data breach. The proposed settlement would require CafePress to implement a comprehensive data security program and pay $500,000 in redress to affected individuals.

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On March 9, 2022, the Biden Administration released its much-anticipated “Executive Order on Ensuring Responsible Development of Digital Assets” (“Executive Order”). The White House describes the Executive Order as the “first whole-of-government strategy” on digital assets and attempts to strike a balance between encouraging innovation and U.S. leadership in the digital asset space, while signaling an appetite to protect against a variety of stated risks through additional regulation and legislation.

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The Federal Trade Commission has reached a settlement with WW International, Inc. and Kurbo, Inc. over allegations the companies improperly registered children for the “Kurbo by WW” online weight loss management program. In pleadings filed on February 16, 2022, in federal court in the Northern District of California, the FTC claims WW and Kurbo offered a service that was tailored for children but that failed to ensure parental involvement in the registration process. According to the FTC, the defendants created an age gate that children could easily evade, and that ...
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On February 14, 2022 the FTC announced that, at the agency’s request, federal courts in California ordered two Voice over Internet Protocol (“VoIP”) service providers to produce information as part of ongoing investigations by the FTC into telemarketing calls and robocalls made in violation of the Telemarketing Sales Rule (“TSR”). Failure to comply with the court orders could result in the VoIP service providers being held in contempt of court.

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On February 14, 2022, Noom Inc., a popular weight loss and fitness app, agreed to pay $56 million, and provide an additional $6 million in subscription credits to settle a putative class action in New York federal court. The class is seeking conditional certification and has urged the court to preliminarily approve the settlement.

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On January 4, 2022,  the Federal Trade Commission published a blog post reminding companies that “the duty to take reasonable steps to mitigate known software vulnerabilities implicates laws including, among others, the Federal Trade Commission Act and the Gramm Leach Bliley Act,” in response to Log4Shell’s public disclosure of the Log4j vulnerability. The blog post also calls for companies to take immediate steps to reduce the likelihood of harm to consumers that could result from the exposure of consumer data as a result of Log4j or similar known vulnerabilities.

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On January 24, 2022, a group of state attorneys general (Indiana, Texas, D.C. and Washington) (the “State AGs”) announced their commitment to ramp up enforcement work on “dark patterns” that are used to ascertain consumers’ location data. The State AGs created a plan to initiate lawsuits alleging that consumers of certain online services are falsely led to believe that they can prevent the collection of their location data by changing their account and device settings, when the online services do not, in fact, honor such settings. The State AGs have alleged that this practice constitutes a deceptive and unlawful trade practice under applicable state consumer protection law. The State AGs’ announcement highlights the underlying concern that consumers may be provided with a choice to opt out of location tracking but still have their location data made accessible to certain online service providers.

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On January 21, 2022, the Federal Trade Commission published two new resources for complying with the Health Breach Notification Rule (the “Rule”). In September 2021, the FTC issued a Policy Statement clarifying that the Rule applies to makers of health apps, connected devices and similar products. As we previously blogged, the Rule requires vendors of personal health records (“PHR”), PHR-related entities and service providers to these entities, to notify consumers and the FTC (and, in some cases, the media) in the event of a breach of unsecured identifiable health information, including cybersecurity intrusions and other instances of unauthorized access.

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On January 6, 2022, the Federal Trade Commission reached a $1.5 million settlement with loan application company ITMedia Solutions LLC (“ITMedia”) over alleged violations of the FTC Act and Fair Credit Reporting Act (“FCRA”). The FTC alleged that ITMedia deceptively acquired and indiscriminately shared consumers’ sensitive personal information under the guise of connecting them with lenders.

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On December 27, 2021, the Federal Trade Commission sought public comment on a petition filed by Accountable Tech calling on the FTC to use its rulemaking authority to prohibit “surveillance advertising” as an “unfair method of competition” (“UMC”). Accountable Tech is a non-profit organization that advocates for social media companies to strengthen the integrity of their platforms.

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On December 15, 2021, the Federal Trade Commission announced a $2 million settlement with OpenX Technologies (“OpenX”) in connection with alleged violations of the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act Rule (“COPPA Rule”) and the FTC Act. According to the FTC’s complaint, OpenX knowingly collected personal information from children under age 13 without parental consent, and collected geolocation data from users of all ages who opted out of being tracked.

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Last month, the Centre for Information Policy Leadership (“CIPL”) at Hunton Andrews Kurth submitted a response to the UK Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport (“DCMS”) on its Consultation on Reforms to the Data Protection Regime (the “Response”). The Response also reflects views gathered from CIPL members during two industry roundtables organized in collaboration with DCMS to obtain feedback on the reform proposals. Key takeaways from the Response include the following:

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On November 17, 2021, the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation held its confirmation hearing on FTC Commissioner nominee, Alvaro Bedoya.

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On November 5, 2021, the Federal Trade Commission suggested two preventative steps small businesses can take to protect against ransomware risks:

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On October 27, 2021, the Federal Trade Commission announced significant amendments to the agency’s Safeguards Rule (the “Final Rule”). Promulgated in 2002 pursuant to the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act, the Safeguards Rule obligates covered financial institutions to develop, implement and maintain a comprehensive information security program that complies with the Rule’s requirements.

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On October 28, 2021, the Federal Trade Commission announced the issuance of a new enforcement policy statement warning companies against using dark patterns that trick consumers into subscription services. The policy statement comes in response to rising complaints about deceptive sign-up tactics like unauthorized charges or impossible-to-cancel billing.

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On October 6, 2021, Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco announced the launch of the new Civil Cyber-Fraud Initiative. Led by the Department of Justice (“DOJ”) Civil Division’s Commercial Litigation Branch, Fraud Section, the initiative will seek to “utilize the False Claims Act (“FCA”) to pursue cybersecurity related fraud by government contractors and grant recipients.”

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The FTC will hold a virtual open meeting on Thursday, October 21, 2021, at 1pm ET to present the agency’s findings on evidence gathered pursuant to the FTC’s issuance of 6(b) orders in 2019 to six Internet Service Providers and three of their advertising affiliates regarding the parties’ privacy practices. Public release of the FTC Staff report is subject to a vote by the Commission. The presentation of findings will be followed by a verbal public comment period where commenters can share feedback on the FTC’s work and bring matters to the Commission’s attention ...
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On October 7, 2021, Federal Trade Commission Chair Lina Khan appointed Olivier Sylvain as a senior advisor on rulemaking and emerging technology. As announced by Fordham University School of Law, where Sylvain serves as a professor of communications, information and administrative law, Sylvain is an expert in the Communications Decency Act and also has focused his work on artificial intelligence and community-owned networked computing.

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On October 8, 2021, Senator Ed Markey (D-Mass) and Representatives Kathy Castor (D-Fla) and Lori Trahan (D-Mass) penned a letter to Chair of the Federal Trade Commission Lina Khan, urging the agency to ensure that companies uphold the commitments made in their children’s privacy notices and “hold them accountable if they fail to do so.” In the letter, the lawmakers noted that many technology companies have recently announced updates to their respective platforms’ policies that are intended to enhance children and teen protections in compliance with the UK’s Age Appropriate Design Code (“AADC”), which took effect on September 2, 2021.

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On October 4, 2021, the California Privacy Protection Agency (“CPPA”) appointed Ashkan Soltani as its first Executive Director. Soltani, a former chief technologist for the Federal Trade Commission and senior advisor to the White House, began his new role on Monday. He also is a distinguished fellow at the Georgetown Law Institute for Technology Law and Policy and the Georgetown Center on Privacy and Technology.

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On September 29 and 30, 2021, the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation convened hearings on how to better protect consumer and children’s privacy.

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On September 14, 2021, the Federal Trade Commission authorized new compulsory process resolutions in eight key enforcement areas: (1) Acts or Practices Affecting United States Armed Forces Members and Veterans; (2) Acts or Practices Affecting Children; (3) Bias in Algorithms and Biometrics; (4) Deceptive and Manipulative Conduct on the Internet; (5) Repair Restrictions; (6) Abuse of Intellectual Property; (7) Common Directors and Officers and Common Ownership; and (8) Monopolization Offenses.

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On September 15, 2021, the Federal Trade Commission issued a Policy Statement to clarify the scope of the FTC’s Health Breach Notification Rule (the “Rule”) as it relates to health apps and connected devices. In its Policy Statement, the FTC emphasized that the Rule was designed to ensure that entities not covered under HIPAA must still be held accountable in the event of a breach of consumers’ sensitive health information. The Rule requires vendors of personal health records (“PHR”), PHR related entities, and service providers to these entities, to notify consumers and the FTC (and, in some cases, the media) in the event of a breach of unsecured identifiable health information. Failure to provide such notice can result in civil penalties under the Rule. While the Rule was established more than a decade ago, in 2009, it has never been enforced by the FTC.

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On September 13, 2021, the Federal Trade Commission published final revisions to five rules promulgated pursuant to the Fair Credit Reporting Act (“FCRA”), to clarify that the rules apply only to motor vehicle dealers. The final revisions were made to bring the rules in line with the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act. Entities other than motor vehicle dealers are still subject to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s (“CFPB's”) FCRA counterpart rules and the concurrent jurisdiction of the CFPB and FTC to enforce them.

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On September 14, 2021, the U.S. House Committee on Energy and Commerce (“E&C Committee”) voted in favor of a legislative recommendation that would create a new Federal Trade Commission privacy bureau as part of the proposed $3.5 trillion federal budget reconciliation package.

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On September 13, 2021, President Biden is expected to nominate Alvaro Bedoya to the Federal Trade Commission. Bedoya would replace FTC Commissioner Rohit Chopra, who was earlier nominated, but has not yet been confirmed, as Director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

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On September 1, 2021, the Federal Trade Commission banned Support King, LLC, the operator of SpyFone.com (“SpyFone”), and its CEO, Scott Zuckerman, from offering, promoting, selling or advertising any surveillance app, service or business. The FTC alleged SpyFone allowed purchasers to illegally surveil other individuals by surreptitiously monitoring a device user’s activity without the device user’s knowledge. The FTC also alleged that SpyFone failed to safeguard such illegally harvested personal information by failing to put in place basic security measures.

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On July 9, 2021, President Biden signed the Executive Order on Promoting Competition in the American Economy (the “Executive Order”). The stated goal of the Executive Order is to increase competition in the United States and resolve issues related to monopolistic behaviors, including with respect to privacy and data protection.

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On July 1, 2021, the Federal Trade Commission settled a complaint brought under the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (“COPPA”) against Toronto-based Kuuhuub Inc. and its Finnish subsidiaries Kuu Hubb Oy and Recolor Oy, operators of the online coloring book app, Recolor. The FTC alleged that the app operators violated the COPPA Rule by collecting and disclosing personal information from child users of the app without first notifying their parents or obtaining verifiable parental consent.

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On June 15, 2021, the U.S. Senate confirmed Lina Khan to the Federal Trade Commission by a vote of 69-28. Khan will fill the vacancy left by former Chairman Joseph Simons (R) who resigned from the FTC in January 2021.

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As reported on the Hunton Retail Law Resource blog, this week, the Federal Trade Commission voted 3 to 1 to accept a settlement agreement with MoviePass, Inc., its parent company, and two of the now-defunct company’s former employees, after allegations of failure to take reasonable measures to secure consumers’ data and deceptive trade practices. The Commission brought an enforcement action against MoviePass pursuant to the FTC Act and the Restore Online Shoppers’ Confidence Act (“ROSCA”), the latter of which requires disclosure of all material terms, a consumer’s informed consent, and a simple mechanism to stop recurring charges when marketing negative option services.

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