Privacy & Security
Conversations about the privacy and security of health information systems and patient data are ongoing, and frequently front-page news. But what about healthcare’s “internet of things”? More specifically, the web of wearable or implantable medical devices, and the applications that go along with them, which collect and transmit health information? The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is charged with approving medical devices for patient use in a clinical setting, such as pacemakers. These devices require FDA approval and cannot be altered after receiving that approval. Additionally, an upgrade to an approved device could result in the need for an entirely new FDA approval, making device’s security essentially obsolete soon after its deployment. The inability to upgrade device security poses a unique cybersecurity risk. And this risk is one that Congress seems poised to take on.
After the EU invalidated the previous data transfer agreement between the EU and the US in July of 2020, many big tech companies have been left unsure how to keep business flowing from Europe without the ability to store data within the US. To the relief of these companies, the Biden Administration has reached a preliminary agreement for a new deal with the EU. Coined the Trans-Atlantic Data Privacy Framework, this new agreement works to address concerns raised by the EU.
Long gone are the days when cybersecurity concerns existed solely in the domain of technology teams. Various organizations, from schools to government entities (at every level), to private companies alike have fallen prey to cyberattacks. May 2021’s Colonial Pipeline attack caused chaos and a temporary gas frenzy that brought awareness of the vulnerabilities of the technology we rely on to even the least technically minded American. Cybersecurity, and more specifically, the security of critical infrastructure immediately became an issue that the U.S. Government is taking very seriously.
The impact of Russia’s unprovoked attack on Ukraine on February 24, 2022 has not only caused a horrific human rights crisis but has also had a dramatic effect on how the world conducts business, felt well beyond the borders of Russia and Ukraine. Warnings of an imminent Russian cyberattack on critical United States infrastructure has small and large businesses alike brushing up their cybersecurity policies to ensure they are compliant with current best practices in the likely event of a Russian cyberattack and impending federal legislation.
On February 9, a group of senators led by Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin and Bill Cassidy of Louisiana introduced a new bill, the Health Data Use and Privacy Commission Act (the “Act”), in attempt to revitalize current legislation regarding the protection and use of health data. The bill also has the support of a number of representatives from within the healthcare industry, including Epic, IBM, and Teladoc Health, as well as a number of professional associations like the American College of Cardiology, the Association for Behavioral Health and Wellness, and the Association of Clinical Research Organizations.
Despite the technology and data collection sectors rapidly growing over the past few decades, laws protecting consumers in these spaces have barely expanded, if at all. The first, and only, comprehensive federal data privacy regulation was passed in 1974, roughly ten years before the first Mac computer was invented. Since then, we’ve seen a few more federal laws put in place to protect consumer data and even some states take actions into their own hands, but we have yet to see another comprehensive law from the federal government. This begs the question, will the federal government finally enact new data privacy laws for the country as a whole to adhere to, or will they continue to let states take the reins forcing companies to comply with multiple laws at once?
Conversation surrounding the hodgepodge of state data privacy legislation in the U.S. has long been a subject of frustration within the U.S. and abroad. 2021 saw a drastic uptick in awareness and a need for meaningful comprehensive consumer privacy laws. With both data privacy and cybersecurity repeatedly making front page news over the last year, and even becoming high priority within the Biden Administration, it has become one of the few issues on which people across the political spectrum can agree. But will 2022 be the year that comprehensive federal privacy legislation becomes a reality? Don’t count on it.
When you think of the most valuable commodity in the world today, you might automatically think of money, however, personal data has now become one of the most valuable forms of currency today. The vast amounts of personal data available have made it increasingly valuable to companies who know how to use it to their advantage. The means of receiving this data are sometimes questionable, and up until recently, often unregulated, leading to companies using unethical methods to get their hands on this valuable data. The US is starting to follow the rest of the world and develop extensive data privacy laws that cover more than just medical information to ensure that consumers are protected, but there’s still lots of disagreements surrounding how and what should be protected in the US.
Robocalls are an increasing threat to Americans across the country. In 2020, American consumers received nearly 4 billion robocalls per month. This number quickly increased in March 2021 when Americans received 4.9 billion robocalls. Although not all robocalls are illegal, illegal robocalls hurt Americans by spamming them to market a product. Americans have a choice to give their written consent, but the issue stems from robocalls marketing products without written consent. About 60 million Americans say they have been a victim to phone scams in the last year and have lost nearly $30 billion as a result. Unfortunately, despite the FCC and FTC increasingly targeting spammers and illegal robocalls, it is difficult to say when this problem will end.
On November 3, 2021, Robinhood Markets Inc., a popular online stock trading app, reported that an intruder gained access to its systems, obtaining the personal information of millions of its users. With its sudden rise to popularity and contempt following the GameStop stock volatility, and an ongoing class action lawsuit concerning a previous breach, Robinhood is in hot water with both customers and regulatory agencies alike.