Posts tagged Telecommunications.
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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 13, 2024, the Federal Communications Commission’s updates to the FCC data breach notification rules (the “Rules”) went into effect. They were adopted in December 2023 pursuant to an FCC Report and Order (the “Order”).

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On December 13, 2023, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) voted to update its 16-year old data breach notification rules (the “Rules”). Pursuant to the FCC update, providers of telecommunications, Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) and telecommunications relay services (TRS) are now required to notify the FCC of a data breach, in addition to existing obligations to notify affected customers, the FBI and the U.S. Secret Service.

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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 June 13, 2022, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office for Civil Rights (“OCR”) released guidance to help covered entities understand how they can use remote communication technologies for audio-only telehealth in compliance with the HIPAA Privacy and Security Rules (the “Guidance”). Specifically, the Guidance clarifies how audio-only telehealth can be conducted after OCR’s Notification of Enforcement Discretion for Telehealth (the “Telehealth Notification”), put in place during the COVID-19 pandemic, is no longer in effect.

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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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As reported on the Hunton Retail Resource Blog, on October 20, 2021, a new wave in the fight against “robocalls” is targeting telemarketing text messages. In the past six months, there has been an uptick in activity at both the state and federal level to reign in telemarketing text messages.

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On October 15, 2021, the U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts entered a final order approving a $14 million class action settlement resolving claims against HelloFresh for alleged violations of the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (“TCPA”), 47 U.S.C. § 227, et seq. The named plaintiffs alleged that HelloFresh violated the TCPA by (1) placing telemarketing calls to consumers whose phone numbers were listed on the federal Do Not Call registry; (2) placing telemarketing calls to consumers using an automatic telephone dialing system (“ATDS”) without prior express written consent; and (3) placing telemarketing calls to consumers who had requested to be placed on Hello Fresh’s internal Do Not Call list. According to plaintiffs’ attorneys, this settlement is the largest TCPA class action settlement in Massachusetts state history.

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On April 22, 2021, the Belgian Constitutional Court annulled (in French) the framework set forth by the Law of 29 May 2016 (the “Law”) requiring telecommunications providers to retain electronic communications data in bulk.

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On April 1, 2021, the Supreme Court issued its long-awaited opinion in Facebook, Inc. v. Duguid et al., No. 19-511 (Apr. 1, 2021).  At issue in Facebook, was the question of what technology constitutes an “automatic telephone dialing system” (“ATDS”) within the meaning of the Telephone Consumer Protection Act, 47 U.S.C. §227 et seq (“TCPA”). The Supreme Court’s unanimous decision is a huge win for companies who communicate with their consumers by telephone/text message.

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On November 26, 2020, the Conference of the German Data Protection Authorities (Datenschutzkonferenz, the “DSK”) issued a press release with conclusions from their 100th anniversary meeting.

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On November 9, 2020, the Federal Trade Commission announced it had entered into an consent agreement (the “Proposed Settlement”) with Zoom Video Communications, Inc. (“Zoom”) to settle allegations that the video conferencing provider engaged in a series of unfair and deceptive practices that undermined the security of its user base, which, according to the FTC, has grown from 10 million users in December 2019 to 300 million in April 2020 during the COVID-19 pandemic.

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On November 2, 2020, the comment period for the Federal Acquisition Security Council’s (“FASC”) interim final rule (the “Interim Final Rule”) implementing the Federal Acquisition Supply Chain Security Act of 2018 (the “2018 Act”) will close.

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On April 13, 2020, the New York Department of Financial Services (“NYDFS”) issued guidance (“April guidance”) to all New York State entities covered under NYDFS’s cybersecurity regulation regarding assessing and addressing heightened cybersecurity risks due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In asking regulated entities to address risks “appropriately,” the April guidance references NYDFS’s earlier March 10, 2020 guidance calling on regulated institutions to submit to the agency (within 30 days of the guidance) plans “to address operational risks posed by the outbreak of a novel coronavirus,” including “assessment[s] of potential increased cyber-attacks and fraud.”

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Elizabeth Denham, the UK Information Commissioner, has released an opinion in response to the joint effort announced by Apple Inc. (“Apple”) and Google LLC (“Google”) to enable the use of Bluetooth technology to help governments and health agencies reduce the spread of COVID-19 by building contact-tracing technology into iOS and Android smartphones. In the opinion, the Information Commissioner concludes that the "Contact Tracing Framework" (“CTF”) being developed supports data protection principles.

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On April 1, 2020, the French Data Protection Authority (the “CNIL”) released guidance for employers on how to implement teleworking (the “Guidance”) as well as best practices for their employees in this context (the “Best Practices”).

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The meaning of an “automatic telephone dialing system” (“ATDS”) as defined by the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (“TCPA”) has been hotly contested since the D.C. Circuit invalidated the prior Federal Communications Commission (“FCC”) rulings interpreting the TCPA in 2018. The Ninth Circuit has held that merely calling numbers from a stored list is sufficient to meet the definition of an ATDS, while the Third Circuit has at least indicated that the ability to generate numbers randomly or sequentially is the defining characteristic.

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On February 21, 2020, the Presidency of the Council of the European Union (“EU Council Presidency”) published a revised part of the proposed Regulation concerning the Respect for Private Life and the Protection of Personal Data in Electronic Communications and Repealing Directive 2002/58/EC (Regulation on Privacy and Electronic Communications), better known as “the Draft ePrivacy Regulation.”

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On February 1, 2020, the Italian Data Protection Authority (Garante per la protezione dei dati personali, the “Garante”) announced that it had levied a fine of €27,802,946 on TIM S.p.A. (“TIM”), a telecommunications company, for several unlawful marketing data processing practices. Between 2017 and 2019, the Garante received numerous complaints from individuals (including from individuals who were not existing customers of TIM) claiming that they had received unwanted marketing calls, without having provided their consent or despite having registered on an opt-out list. The Garante indicated that the violations impacted several million individuals.

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On December 9, 2019, the Federal Communications Commission (“FCC”) announced that online fax services do not fall under legal prohibitions against junk faxes. In a petition filed in 2017 for declaratory judgement brought by AmeriFactors Financial Group, LLC pursuant to the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (“TCPA”) and the Junk Fax Protection Act  (“JFPA”), the petitioner sought clarification regarding the status of online cloud-based fax services.

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On July 23, 2019, New York City Council members introduced Int. 1632-2019 (the “Bill”), an amendment to the administrative code of New York City that would prohibit telecommunications carriers and mobile applications from sharing a customer’s location data if such data was collected from a device in the five boroughs.

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On February 28, 2018, the Federal Trade Commission issued a report, titled Mobile Security Updates: Understanding the Issues (the “Report”), that analyzes the process by which mobile devices sold in the U.S. receive security updates and provides recommendations for improvement. The Report is based on information the FTC obtained from eight mobile device manufacturers, and from information the Federal Communications Commission collected from six wireless carriers.

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On November 16, 2016, the UK Investigatory Powers Bill (the “Bill”) was approved by the UK House of Lords. Following ratification of the Bill by Royal Assent, which is expected before the end of 2016, the Bill will officially become law in the UK. The draft of the Bill has sparked controversy, as it will hand significant and wide-ranging powers to state surveillance agencies, and has been strongly criticized by some privacy and human rights advocacy groups. 

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On October 13, 2016, Elizabeth Denham, the UK Information Commissioner, suggested that directors of companies who violate data protection laws should be personally liable to pay fines at a House of Commons Public Bill Committee meeting when discussing the latest draft of the Digital Economy Bill (the “Bill”). The Bill is designed to enable businesses and individuals to access fast, digital communications services, promote investment in digital communications infrastructure and support the “digital transformation of government.” Measures to improve the digital landscape contained in the Bill include the introduction of a new Electronic Communications Code and more effective controls to protect citizens from nuisance calls. More controversially, however, the Bill also contains provisions both enabling and controlling the sharing of data between public authorities and private companies.

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On August 30, 2016, the First-tier Tribunal (Information Rights) (the “Tribunal”) dismissed an appeal from UK telecoms company TalkTalk Telecom Group PLC (“TalkTalk”) regarding a monetary penalty notice issued to it on February 17, 2016, by the UK Information Commissioner’s Office (“ICO”). The ICO had issued the monetary penalty notice to TalkTalk, for the amount of £1,000, for an alleged failure to report an October 2015 data breach to the ICO within the legally required time period.

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On February 25, 2016, the Court of Justice of the European Union (“CJEU”) heard arguments on two questions referred by the German Federal Court of Justice (Bundesgerichtshof). The first question was whether or not IP addresses constitute personal data and therefore cannot be stored beyond what is necessary to provide an Internet service.

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On December 27, 2015, the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress of the People’s Republic of China published the P.R.C. Anti-Terrorism Law. The law was enacted in response to a perceived growing threat from extremists and terrorists, particularly in regions in Western China, and came into effect on January 1, 2016.

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On December 15, 2015, the California Attorney General announced an approximately $25 million settlement with Comcast Cable Communications, LLC (“Comcast”) stemming from allegations that Comcast disposed of electronic equipment (1) without properly deleting customer information from the equipment and (2) in landfills that are not authorized to accept electronic equipment. The settlement must be approved by a California judge before it is finalized.

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On November 5, 2015, the Enforcement Bureau of the Federal Communications Commission (“FCC”) entered into a Consent Decree with cable operator Cox Communications to settle allegations that the company failed to properly protect customer information when the company’s electronic data systems were breached in August 2014 by a hacker. The FCC alleged that Cox failed to properly protect the confidentiality of its customers’ proprietary network information (“CPNI”) and personally identifiable information, and failed to promptly notify law enforcement authorities of security breaches involving CPNI in violation of the Communications Act of 1934 and FCC’s rules.

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On November 2, 2015, Federal Communications Commission (“FCC”) Chairman, Tom Wheeler, indicated in an interview that the agency would take on the issue of broadband privacy within the next several months, most likely in the form of a notice of proposed rulemaking. Chairman Wheeler said that the FCC’s inquiry would look at the privacy practices of “those who provide the networks” (i.e., Internet service providers (“ISPs”)) and how such businesses are protecting their customers’ information.

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On October 16, 2015, the German Parliament adopted a new data retention law requiring telecommunications operators and Internet service providers to retain customer Internet and phone usage data, including phone numbers, call times, IP addresses, and the international identifiers of mobile users (if applicable) for 10 weeks. The law requires user location data obtained in connection with mobile phone services to be retained for four weeks. Telecommunications and Internet service providers also are required to ensure that the retained data is stored within Germany.

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On July 6, 2015, the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress of the People’s Republic of China published a draft of the country’s proposed Network Security Law (the “Draft Cybersecurity Law”). A public comment period on the Draft Cybersecurity Law is now open until August 5, 2015.

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On May 28, 2015, the German government adopted a draft law that would require telecommunications and Internet service providers to retain Internet and telephone usage data. The initiative comes more than a year after the European Court of Justice declared the EU Data Retention Directive invalid, which had been implemented previously by German law. The German law implementing the EU Data Protection Directive had been declared unconstitutional by the German Federal Constitutional Court five years ago.

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On May 26, 2015, the Upper House of the Dutch Parliament passed a bill that introduces a general obligation for data controllers to notify the Dutch Data Protection Authority (“DPA”) of data security breaches and provides increased sanctions for violations of the Dutch Data Protection Act. A Dutch Royal Decree still needs to be adopted to set the new law’s date of entry into force. According to the Dutch DPA, the new law is likely to come into force on January 1, 2016.

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On May 20, 2015, the Federal Communications Commission (“FCC”) released an Enforcement Advisory announcing that its previously-released Open Internet Order “applies the core customer privacy protections of Section 222 of the Communications Act to providers of broadband Internet access service” and that the statutory provisions of Section 222, which historically have been used to protect Consumer Proprietary Network Information on telephone networks, will apply to broadband providers when the Open Internet Order goes into effect on June 12, 2015. This approach will expand broadband providers’ requirements to protect consumer privacy and limit their use of consumer data.

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On January 1, 2015, Finland’s Information Security Code (2014/ 917, the “Code”) became effective. The Code introduces substantial revisions to Finland’s existing electronic communications legislation and consolidates several earlier laws into a single, unified text. Although many of these earlier laws remain unchanged, the Code includes extensive amendments in a number of areas.

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On December 19, 2014, the Federal Trade Commission announced a settlement of at least $90 million with mobile phone carrier T-Mobile USA, Inc. (“T-Mobile”) stemming from allegations related to mobile cramming. This settlement amount will primarily be used to provide refunds to affected customers who were charged by T-Mobile for unauthorized third party charges. As part of the settlement, T-Mobile also will pay $18 million in fines and penalties to the attorneys general of all 50 states and the District of Columbia, and $4.5 million to the Federal Communications Commission.

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On October 28, 2014, the German Federal Court of Justice referred the question of whether an IP address constitutes personal data under the EU Data Protection Directive 95/46/EC (“EU Data Protection Directive”) to the European Court of Justice (“ECJ”). The German court referred the question to the ECJ for a preliminary ruling in connection with a case that arose in 2008 when a German citizen challenged the German federal government’s storage of the dynamic IP addresses of users on government websites. The citizen’s claim initially was rejected by the court of first instance. The claim was granted, however, by the court of second instance to the extent it referred to the storage of IP addresses after the users left the relevant government websites. Subsequently, both parties appealed the decision to the German Federal Court of Justice.

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On October 24, 2014, the Federal Communications Commission announced that it intends to impose a $10 million fine on TerraCom, Inc. (“TerraCom”) and YourTel America, Inc. (“YourTel”) for violating privacy laws relating to their customers’ personal information. This announcement marks the FCC’s first enforcement action in the data security arena as well as its largest privacy action to date.

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On October 8, 2014, the Federal Trade Commission announced an $80 million settlement with mobile phone carrier AT&T Mobility, LLC (“AT&T”) stemming from allegations related to mobile cramming. The $80 million payment to the FTC is part of a larger $105 million settlement between AT&T and various federal and state regulators, including the Federal Communications Commission and the attorneys general of all 50 states and the District of Columbia. According to the FCC, “[t]he settlement is the largest enforcement action in FCC history.”

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On September 3, 2014, the Federal Communications Commission announced that Verizon has agreed to pay $7.4 million to settle an FCC Enforcement Bureau investigation into Verizon’s use of personal information for marketing. The investigation revealed that Verizon had used customers’ personal information for marketing purposes over a multiyear period before notifying the customers of their right to opt out of such marketing.

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On August 19, 2014, the German Federal Ministry of the Interior published a revised draft cybersecurity law (the “Draft Law”). An earlier version of the law was published in March 2013. The Draft Law is intended to serve as a cornerstone of Germany’s recently-announced digital agenda.

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On July 22, 2014, the Data Security Council of India (“DSCI”) announced that it has deemed Vodafone India Limited (“Vodafone”) a “DSCI Privacy Certified” organization. The certification, which is designed to help companies “demonstrate the privacy practices to relevant stakeholders and enhance trust,” is the first for a telecommunications company in India.

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On July 10, 2014, the UK government announced plans to introduce emergency data retention rules, publishing the Data Retention and Investigatory Powers Bill (the “Bill”) along with explanatory notes and draft regulations. The publication of the Bill follows the European Court of Justice’s April 2014 declaration that the EU Data Retention Directive (the “Directive”) is invalid. Under the Directive, EU Member States were able to require communications service provides (e.g., ISPs) to retain communications data relating to their subscribers for up to 12 months.

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On May 19, 2014, the French Data Protection Authority (the “CNIL”) published its Annual Activity Report for 2013 (the “Report”) highlighting its main accomplishments in 2013 and outlining some of its priorities for the upcoming year.

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On May 16, 2014, the Singapore Personal Data Protection Commission (the “Commission”) published advisory guidelines for the implementation of its Personal Data Protection Act (the “PDPA”) for two industry sectors. The guidelines were published on the same day on which the Commission held its well-attended Personal Data Protection Seminar focusing on international perspectives on data governance. The advisory guidelines generally have the following content:

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On March 25, 2014, the Article 29 Working Party adopted Opinion 03/2014 (the “Opinion”) providing guidance on whether individuals should be notified in case of a data breach.

The Opinion goes beyond considering the notification obligations contained in the e-Privacy Directive 2002/58/EC, which requires telecommunications service providers to notify the competent national authority of all data breaches. The Directive also requires notification (without undue delay) to the affected individuals when the data breach is likely to adversely affect the personal data or privacy of individuals, unless the service provider has satisfactorily demonstrated that it has implemented appropriate technological safeguards that render the relevant data unintelligible to unauthorized parties and that these measures were applied to the data concerned by the security breach.

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In a major speech delivered at the U.S. Department of Justice on January 17, 2014, President Obama addressed the call for reforms to government surveillance programs following disclosures regarding National Security Agency (“NSA”) activities leaked by Edward Snowden since June of last year. The President discussed the need to advance national security while strengthening protections for privacy and civil liberties, improving transparency in intelligence programs, engaging in continual oversight and rebuilding trust among foreign leaders and citizens. He outlined several areas of reform:
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On December 16, 2013, the United States District Court for the District of Columbia granted a preliminary injunction barring the federal government from collecting and analyzing metadata related to two consumers’ mobile phone accounts. The court held that the two individual plaintiffs were entitled to a preliminary injunction because they had standing to challenge the government’s data collection practices and were substantially likely to succeed on the merits of their claim. The court has stayed issuance of the injunction pending appeal to the D.C. Circuit Court.

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On December 12, 2013, Advocate-General Cruz Villalón of the European Court of Justice (“ECJ”) issued his Opinion on the compatibility of the EU Data Retention Directive 2006/24/EC (the “Data Retention Directive”) with the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union (the “EU Charter”).

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On October 8, 2013, a Royal Decree was published completing the transposition of the EU Data Retention Directive 2006/24/EC (the “Data Retention Directive”) into Belgian law. The Royal Decree was adopted on September 19, 2013.

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On September 5, 2013, the 16 German state data protection authorities and the Federal Commissioner for Data Protection and Freedom of Information (the “DPAs”) passed a resolution concerning recent revelations about the PRISM, Tempora and XKeyscore surveillance programs.

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This week a new breach notification regulation takes effect across the EU. The Regulation on the measures applicable to the notification of personal data breaches under Directive 2002/58/EC (the “Regulation”) specifies the technical measures of how Internet service providers, telecommunications providers and other public electronic communications service (“ECS”) providers must notify of data breaches.

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On July 16, 2013, the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology of the People’s Republic of China (the “MIIT”) issued a new rule entitled Provisions on the Registration of Real Identity Information of Telephone Users (the “Provisions”), which will take effect on September 1, 2013. The Provisions were issued pursuant to the Resolution of the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress Relating to Strengthening the Protection of Information on the Internet (the “Resolution”) and the Telecommunications Regulations of the People’s Republic of China. In April 2013, the MIIT issued a draft of the Provisions and solicited public comment.

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On July 16, 2013, the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology of the People’s Republic of China (the “MIIT”) issued a new rule entitled Provisions on the Protection of Personal Information of Telecommunications and Internet Users (the “Provisions”). The Provisions, which will take effect on September 1, 2013, are intended to implement the general requirements set forth in last December’s Resolution of the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress Relating to Strengthening the Protection of Information on the Internet (the “Resolution”). The Provisions are the first specific regulations concerning personal information protection by telecommunications service providers in China.

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On June 24, 2013, the European Commission announced new technical implementing measures that address the EU data breach notification requirement for telecom operators and internet service providers (“ISPs”). Based on a Commission Regulation, these companies must:

  • notify the competent national authority of the incident (or at least provide an initial description thereof) within 24 hours after detection of the breach;
  • outline which data are affected and what measures have been or will be taken by the company;
  • pay attention to the type of data compromised when assessing whether to notify subscribers (i.e. evaluating whether the breach is likely to have an adverse effect on personal data or privacy); and
  • use a standardized format for notifying the competent national authority (e.g. an online form which is the same for all EU Member States).
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On May 30, 2013, the European Court of Justice held that Sweden failed to fulfill its obligations under EU law when it delayed complying with the Court’s 2010 ruling regarding the country’s implementation of the EU Data Retention Directive 2006/24/EC (the “Data Retention Directive”). The Court ordered Sweden to pay a lump sum of €3,000,000.

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On May 20, 2013, the Irish Office of the Data Protection Commissioner (“ODPC”) published its annual report for 2012 (the “Report”). The Report summarizes the activities of the ODPC during 2012, including its investigations and audits, policy matters, and European and international activities.

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The Obama Administration is in the process of finalizing its review of a statutory electronic surveillance proposal initially developed by the FBI, and is expected to support the introduction of a modified version as legislation. The proposal addresses concerns raised by law enforcement and national security agencies regarding the widening gap between their legal authority to intercept real-time electronic communications pursuant to a court order, and the practical difficulties associated with actually intercepting those communications. According to the government, this gap increasingly prevents the agencies from collecting Internet-based phone calls, emails, chats, text messages and other communications of terrorists, spies, organized crime groups, child pornography distributors and other dangerous actors. The FBI refers to this as the “going dark” problem.

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On May 3, 2013, the German Federal Council (Bundesrat) passed a new bill regarding access to telecom user data, such as names, addresses, passwords and credit card PIN codes. This comes after the German Federal Diet (Bundestag) passed the German government’s bill on March 21, 2013, which amends, among other laws, Germany’s Federal Telecommunications Act.

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On April 10, 2013, the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology of the People’s Republic of China (the “MIIT”) enacted two draft rules (“Provisions on the Protection of Personal Information of Telecommunications and Internet Users” and “Provisions on the Registration of Real Identity Information of Telephone Users”) to solicit public comments. The comment period is open until May 15, 2013. Both Drafts include proposals for substantial provisions on the protection of personal information and were enacted according to the Resolution of the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress Relating to Strengthening the Protection of Information on the Internet (issued by the Standing Committee in December 2012) and some other telecommunications rules.

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On March 8, 2013, the German government published a response to a formal inquiry from one of the German Parliament’s parties on the international security, data protection and surveillance implications of cloud computing. The response describes international cooperation between German and foreign law enforcement agencies that have used mutual legal assistance treaties to obtain cloud data in foreign jurisdictions. An earlier study by the European Parliament’s Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs considered the scope of U.S. laws that allow surveillance of non-U.S. residents in a cloud computing context. The German government’s response now provides information on how German law enforcement agencies obtain data from clouds outside their jurisdiction (e.g., in the United States) pursuant to mutual legal assistance treaties.

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On March 22, 2013, Peru issued the implementing regulations of its new data protection law. The Reglamento de la Ley No 29733, Ley de Protección de Datos Personales (“Regulations”) provide detailed rules on a variety of topics, including the following:

  • Territorial scope;
  • notice and consent;
  • data transfers;
  • processing of personal data relating to children and adolescents;
  • data processing in the communications and telecommunications sectors;
  • outsourcing;
  • information security;
  • data subjects’ rights;
  • registration of databases;
  • codes of conduct; and
  • enforcement.
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On March 5, 2013, the German Federal Ministry of the Interior published proposed amendments (in German) to the German Federal Office for Information Security Law. These proposed amendments are significant because they establish a new duty to notify the German Federal Office for Information Security in the event of a cybersecurity breach.

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Recently, the European Parliament’s Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs (“LIBE”) released a study titled Fighting cyber crime and protecting privacy in the cloud (the “Study”). The Study originally was prepared in October 2012 at the request of the LIBE Committee by the European Parliament’s Policy Department of Citizens’ Rights and Constitutional Affairs, with the help of the Centre for European Policy Studies and the Centre d’Etudes sur les Conflits.

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On September 27, 2012, the German Federal Network Agency, the Bundesnetzagentur (or “BNetzA”), together with the German Federal Commissioner for Data Protection, published a guide on traffic data retention. The guide, which is aimed at telecom providers, includes a comprehensive chart that clarifies data retention periods for different types of services, such as telephone, SMS, Internet and email, and their respective types of traffic data (e.g., mobile identification numbers, IP addresses and International Mobile Equipment Identity data) based on the purposes for the data storage.

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In June, China’s National Internet Information Office and its Ministry of Industry and Information Technology jointly published draft amendments to the Regulation on Internet Information Services (the “Regulation”). The amendments update the Regulation to cover new issues related to the rapid development of Internet services in China since the Regulation first took effect on September 25, 2000. Although the Regulation originally contained no specific provisions directly pertaining to the protection of personal information, the draft amendments do address personal information protection issues.

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On March 22, 2012, the 83rd Conference of the German Data Protection Commissioners came to an end in Potsdam. The attendees indicated their general support for the European Commission’s proposed reform package aimed at modernizing and harmonizing data protection laws in the EU, but insist that Member States should have the authority to implement more stringent data protection measures for the area of public administration.

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On February 24, 2012, the German Federal Constitutional Court (Bundesverfassungsgericht) ruled that certain provisions in the Federal Telecommunications Act concerning the disclosure of telecom user data to law enforcement agencies violate the German constitution. The Court held that strict conditions apply when law enforcement authorities and intelligence agencies ask telecommunications service providers (which may include hospitals and hotels) to turn over certain user data, i.e. passwords and PIN codes.

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The Ministry of Industry and Information Technology of the People’s Republic of China (the “MIIT”) recently issued a regulation entitled “Several Provisions on Regulating Market Orders of Internet Information Services” (the “New Regulations”). The New Regulations, which will take effect on March 15, 2012, include significant new data protection requirements applicable to Internet information service providers (“IISPs”). Consistent with data protection regimes currently in place elsewhere in the world, IISPs will be required to provide much stronger protection for the personal data they collect from users in China, and will be subject to notice and consent requirements, collection limitations and use limitations.

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In the past two months, Chinese national authorities amended a law, and provincial authorities in Jiangsu Province issued a new regulation, both of which include provisions concerning the protection of personal information.

Law of the People’s Republic of China on Resident Identity Cards

Any Chinese citizen who resides in China is required to obtain a resident identity card when he or she turns 16 years old. The cards carry information which generally would be considered personal information under Chinese law, such as name, gender, date of birth, home address and identity card number. The Law of the People’s Republic of China on Resident Identity Cards, a national law originally enacted in 2003, was amended on October 29, 2011, to include the following new provisions on the protection of personal information:

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On November 4, 2011, Congressmen Edward Markey (D-MA) and Joe Barton (R-TX) reiterated their privacy concerns over the handling of customer preferences in connection with Verizon’s new advertising initiative. After learning that Verizon had notified its customers of the implications of a targeted advertising campaign, on October 6, 2011, Reps. Markey and Barton, Co-Chairmen of the bipartisan Congressional Privacy Caucus, wrote a letter containing several inquiries to both Verizon and Verizon Wireless. In particular, Reps. Markey and Barton requested clarification regarding the companies’ potential disclosure of aggregated customer location information and website viewing history to third parties.

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On August 5, 2011, the Beijing Second Intermediate People’s Court announced its decision in what is reported to be the largest criminal case to date involving the misuse of personal information in Beijing, China.  The Court based its ruling on Article 7 of the Seventh Amendment to the Criminal Law, which applies to three types of criminal activities: (1) illegal sale of citizens’ personal information, (2) illegal provision of citizens’ personal information, and (3) illegal access to citizens’ personal information.

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Adam Kardash from Heenan Blaikie LLP in Canada reports that Industry Canada and the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (“CRTC”) have released draft regulations for Canada’s Anti-Spam Legislation (“CASL”).  CASL imposes a consent-based anti-spam regime that restricts organizations’ ability to send commercial electronic messages.  Industry Canada and the CRTC are charged with the task of implementing regulations under CASL.

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On June 28, 2011, the Federal Communications Commission and the Federal Trade Commission convened a public education forum entitled “Helping Consumers Harness the Potential of Location-Based Services.”  Representatives of telecommunications carriers, technology companies and consumer advocacy organizations discussed technological developments and how best to realize the benefits of location-based services without compromising privacy.

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Speaking at the British Bankers’ Association’s Data Protection and Privacy Conference in London on June 20, 2011, Viviane Reding, Vice President of the European Commission and Commissioner for Justice, Fundamental Rights and Citizenship, signaled her intention to streamline data protection to “simplify the regulatory environment” and “substantially reduce the administrative burden” for businesses.  In return, Reding expects businesses to ensure “safe and transparent digital products and services.”

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The German Data Protection Authorities of Berlin and North Rhine-Westphalia have issued a paper containing Frequently Asked Questions about the German statutory data breach notification requirement that went into effect on September 1, 2009.  The paper provides detailed information on key questions concerning the procedure for notification as required by Section 42a of the German Federal Data Protection Act.

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On May 16, 2011, the Article 29 Working Party (the “Working Party”) adopted an Opinion on geolocation services on smart mobile devices (the “Opinion”).  The Opinion clarifies the legal framework and obligations applicable to geolocation services such as maps and navigation tools, geo-personalized services, geotagging of content on the Internet, child control and location-based advertising.

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On April 18, 2011, the European Commission (the “Commission”) adopted an Evaluation Report on the EU Data Retention Directive 2006/24/EC (the “Data Retention Directive”).

The Data Retention Directive requires that, for law enforcement purposes, telecommunications service and network providers (“Operators”) must retain certain categories of telecommunications data (excluding the content of the communication) for not less than six months and not more than two years.  To date, most of the EU Member States have implemented the Data Retention Directive, but Czech Republic, Germany and Romania no longer have implementing laws in place because their constitutional courts have annulled the implementing laws as unconstitutional.

Time 3 Minute Read

On April 5, 2011, the Article 29 Working Party (the “Working Party”) adopted an Opinion on the current EU personal data breach framework and recommendations for future policy developments (the “Opinion”).

In 2009, the revised e-Privacy Directive 2002/58/EC (the “e-Privacy Directive”) introduced a mandatory data breach notification regime for the telecommunications sector.  Pursuant to the e-Privacy Directive, telecommunications and internet service providers are required to report certain data breaches to their national regulator and to affected individuals.

Time 2 Minute Read

On March 2, 2011, the German Federal government adopted a draft law revising certain sector-specific data protection provisions in the German Telecommunications Act.  The draft law addresses the implementation of data breach notification requirements in the European e-Privacy Directive by introducing a breach notification obligation for telecommunications companies.

Time 2 Minute Read

On January 14, 2011, the European Network and Information Security Agency (“ENISA”), which was created to enhance information security within the European Union, published a report entitled “Data breach notifications in the EU” (the “Report”).

Currently, there is wide debate throughout the EU regarding data breach notification requirements.  The debate stems from recent high-profile data breach incidents and the introduction of mandatory data breach notification requirements for telecommunication service providers imposed by EU Directive 2009/136/EC (amending EU Directive 2002/58/EC, the “e-Privacy Directive”), which must be integrated into EU Member States’ national laws by May 25, 2011.  The goal of the Report is to assist Member States, regulatory authorities and private organizations with their implementation of data breach notification policies.

Time 1 Minute Read

Adam Kardash from Heenan Blaikie LLP in Canada reports that Bill C-28, the Fighting Internet and Wireless Spam bill, received Royal Assent on December 15, 2010.  The centerpiece of the Act are prohibitions aimed at preventing spam, but the law also includes regulations to combat phishing and protect users from online malware.  Specifically, among other things, the legislation would prohibit:

  • sending commercial electronic messages (including emails and text messages) without consent (subject to certain limited exceptions);
  • altering transmission data on email messages; and
  • the installation of computer programs without express consent.
Time 2 Minute Read

In a move toward implementation of the EU e-Privacy Directive, on November 3, 2010, the Dutch Minister of Economic Affairs submitted a bill to the Dutch Parliament that would amend the Dutch Telecommunications Act to obligate telecom and internet service providers to provide notification of data security breaches, and require consent for the use of cookies (the “Bill”).

The proposed Bill would require telecom and internet service providers to notify the Dutch Telecom Authority (the “OPTA”) without delay in the event of a security breach involving personal data.  They also would be required to notify affected individuals without delay if the breach is likely to have an adverse effect on the protection of their personal data.  The Bill does not affect initiatives to introduce a broader data breach notification regime applicable to other industries outside the telecom sector.  The Dutch Minister of Justice recently stated that he expects to issue a proposal to implement a more general data breach notification law in 2011.

Time 2 Minute Read

On July 27, 2010, the German Federal Network Agency, the Bundesnetzagentur (or “BNetzA”), issued a press release stating that it had recently levied €194,000 in administrative fines in two cases against companies accused of violating a ban on cold calling.  The cases involved consumer complaints implicating the companies in several illegal acts.  The companies claimed they had obtained prior consent from the consumers they contacted.  The BNetzA, which is the regulatory office for electricity, gas, telecommunications, post and railway markets in Germany, rejected the companies’ argument on the grounds that the “consent” was based on the consumers’ implicit acceptance of the terms of use associated with certain Internet games.  The terms of use included a provision regarding a participant’s consent to telemarketing by partners, sponsors and other companies.  The BNetzA stated that, because these terms of use did not satisfy the legal requirements for consent, the company had not obtained valid consent to call the consumers.

Time 3 Minute Read

In a recently published decision rendered on June 16, 2010, the Frankfurt am Main Higher Regional Court ruled that an Internet access provider may store IP addresses for seven days, and therefore, customers have no right to demand immediate deletion of their IP addresses.  The Court’s ruling upheld a decision originally rendered by the regional court of Darmstadt.

The claimant had requested that Deutsche Telekom AG delete the dynamic IP address assigned and stored for each Internet session immediately upon disconnection by a user.  Up to that point, the Internet provider had been retaining IP addresses for 80 days after each billing cycle.  In June 2007, the lower court granted the claimant request, imposing a maximum retention period of seven days for IP addresses.  The Internet provider reduced its IP address retention period accordingly, based on an agreement with the German federal data protection authority.

Time 3 Minute Read

“The Department of Commerce is back.”  With those words Cameron Kerry, General Counsel of the U.S. Department of Commerce, made it clear the Department intends to take a leading role in shaping domestic privacy policy and representing U.S. privacy interests in international discussions.  The announcement was made at the May 7, 2010, Department of Commerce symposium, “A Dialogue on Privacy and Innovation,” where the mostly business audience welcomed Mr. Kerry’s declaration with great enthusiasm.

Time 1 Minute Read
The Department of Commerce (“DOC”) will be holding a public meeting on May 7, 2010, in Washington, D.C., to listen to stakeholders’ views on privacy policies in the United States.  This session is part of a broader inquiry by the DOC’s newly created Internet Policy Task Force “whose mission is to identify leading public policy and operational challenges in the Internet environment.”  The DOC’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration and the International Trade Administration will issue a notice of inquiry to look at the nexus between innovation ...
Time 4 Minute Read

On March 2, 2010, the German Federal Constitutional Court ruled that the mass storage of telephone and Internet data for law enforcement purposes is unlawful in its current form.

Since 2008, the challenged law has required telecom companies to retain data from telephone, email and Internet traffic, as well as mobile phone location data, for six months.  This information may be retrieved for law enforcement and safety purposes.  Constitutional claims were brought before the Court by nearly 35,000 citizens, representing the largest mass claim proceeding in German history. 

Time 2 Minute Read

On January 29, 2009, the German Federal Network Agency (the “Agency”) stated in a press release that it has imposed fines for unauthorized telephone advertising in six cases.  This brings the total to nine procedures (resulting in €500,000 in fines) during the months of December 2009 and January 2010, and marks the first time the Agency has imposed sanctions for violations of the prohibition on unauthorized telephone advertising and for breach of the caller ID requirement for marketing calls.

Time 1 Minute Read

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 ...
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

This week, the Federal Communications Commission announced a broad consumer privacy enforcement action against over 600 telecommunications carriers.  The Commission issued notices of liability against carriers that failed to certify compliance with regulations governing the protection of Consumer Proprietary Network Information (“CPNI”) and carriers that filed inadequate certifications.  The Commission proposed fines of $20,000 against carriers that failed to file the required certification and up to $10,000 against carriers whose certifications were non-compliant.

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