Privacy & Security
Since the start of 2021, cyber-attacks have dominated headlines across every industry. From governments and government organizations, healthcare companies, and banks, to gaming companies and oil pipelines, ransomware has impacted organizations of all types and sizes. The scale and scope of these attacks have continued to grow and have far reaching consequences. Despite current agency attempts to strengthen cybersecurity through regulation, individual users continue to pose a serious threat due to insufficient security education.
On July 16, 2020, the Court of Justice of the European Union (“CJEU”) issued its deafening decision that summarily and immediately invalidated the EU-US Privacy Shield. The regulatory program established between the European Council and the U.S. Dept. of Commerce allowed for the transfer of personal data of EU residents to be sent from the EU to the US without violating the data transfer restrictions of the General Data Protection Regulation (“GDPR”). The decision went on to cast serious doubt on the sufficiency of standard contractual clauses to adequately protect data transferred to any third country, not just the US. Several months later, data exporters in the EU are still sorting through the wreckage of their privacy programs and waiting for practical advice on the way forward.
On December 12, 2020, the European Commission (the “EC”) issued a highly anticipated draft of newly revised standard contractual clauses (“new SCCs”) that may be used by European Union-based companies to safeguard data transfers of personal data to third countries, such as the US, in compliance with GDPR Art. 46(1). The release comes at a decidedly inopportune time as it follows on the heels of the Court of Justice of the European Union’s (CJEU) Data Protection Commissioner v. Facebook Ireland Limited and Maximillian Schrems (“Schrems II”) decision which casts serious doubt on the adequacy of SCCs alone to safeguard against the “high-risks” involved in EU to US data transfers. And for many data protection experts, the language of the revised SCCs only adds to the confusion, raising even more questions. But one question in particular seems to be prominent among others—for transfers to importers, directly subject to GDPR, are SCCs really necessary?
There is no doubt that working from home has become a new normal for millions of employees worldwide, and for some, this may be the future of their employment. When the workforce made the shift to remote work and online meeting navigation, Zoom Video Communications, Inc. (“Zoom”) quickly became the frontrunning platform. Many companies flocked to Zoom because of its alleged higher levels of security and encryption capabilities. However, a recent lawsuit against Zoom, by nonprofit group Consumer Watchdog, reveals that Zoom may not actually be as safe for users as it once claimed to be. Other lawsuits allege privacy concerns including Zoom sending user data to Facebook. Most recently, the FTC filed a suit against Zoom on November 9th for allegations of unfair, deceptive, or abusive acts or practices (“UDAAP”) related to encryption, cloud storage, third-party safeguards, and failure to disclose information to users. Though various privacy concerns arise, the platform’s popularity continues to increase given its newfound necessity.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation (“FBI”), the Department of Health and Human Services (“HHS”), and the Department of Homeland Security Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (“CISA”) recently announced that hackers have been and will continue to target the United States hospitals and health-care providers. These attacks are cyber in nature and often lead to ransomware attacks, data left, and inevitable disruption of health care services when patient information is locked until the ransom can be paid.
Covid-19 has not only damaged the health and physical well-being of those stricken by the potentially deadly coronavirus, but it has also ravaged the livelihoods and financial stability of many millions more people around the world. The virus spread across the U.S. with incredible speed as more than 100,000 people had already been infected by early March. In many ways the unexpected and quick arrival of the pandemic caught many households financially unprepared and ill-equipped to survive the economic shutdown unscathed. For those that have experienced rent hardship and have, or will soon, be subject to an eviction for non-payment of rent, they must recover not only from the short-term challenges of finding shelter and putting their lives back together, but also the long-term struggle of finding suitable housing with an often disqualifying and indelible mark on their rental history.
The criminal case against the NFL New England Patriots’ franchise owner, Robert Kraft, has taken an astounding turn of events as the Florida Court of Appeals handed down its ruling on Kraft’s privacy objections against law enforcement’s surveillance video evidence showing the billionaire soliciting prostitution at a local spa. Kraft filed a motion to suppress the evidence arguing that Florida law enforcement’s non-consensual and surreptitious recording of non-audio video surveillance of the premises of a private business, that is open to the public, runs afoul of Kraft’s, and others’, Fourth Amendment right to be free from unreasonable government searches. The ruling of the Appeals Court not only affirmed a similar lower court ruling by the Palm Beach County trial court, favoring Kraft, but it served up an interesting compliance lesson on the privacy protections required of law enforcement during their surreptitious video surveillance operations.
TikTok continues to rise in popularity, though their history of complaints and lawsuits paints a different picture. On February 27, 2019 the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) settled with TikTok for $5.7 million in response to a child privacy complaint. This settlement was the largest civil penalty obtained for a child privacy complaint, prompting TikTok to take corrective action by hiring compliance focused employees. Consumer groups now argue that TikTok has failed to make such changes and continues to “flout the law”. In response to national security concerns, President Trump signed an executive order on August 6, 2020 effectively banning the application in the U.S.
Yet another privacy and data security-related lawsuit has been filed against Zoom Video Communications, Inc. (“Zoom Inc.”). Zoom Inc. has been the subject of several complaints related to its video-conferencing service since its meteoric and spectacular rise in popularity due to the Coronavirus pandemic and related quarantine measures beginning in March 2020. In this particular case, there are compliance lessons to be learned from the unfair and deceptive practices claims alleged against Zoom Inc. in the plaintiff’s D.C. Superior Court filing.
Within the last decade, data has surpassed oil as the world’s most valuable commodity. Earlier this year the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) released its observations made during audits that detailed the methods used by corporations to secure their data. This included the kinds of cybersecurity practices employed by companies as well as advice on how to better deal with sensitive data and protect against potential cyberattacks. The SEC’s observations coincide with a recent announcement from the National Security Agency (NSA) that showcases an increased concern surrounding cybersecurity in the corporate world.