It cannot be denied that the COVID-19 pandemic has led to many novel legal and regulatory issues. One topic of major concern both domestically and abroad is how to manage the massive amounts of consumer data being collected in the attempt to quell the spread of the virus. This issue is especially complicated to address in the United States, where a convoluted patchwork of state and federal laws interact to create a relentlessly fragmented data regulation system. Now, as state and local governments, along with tech giants like Apple and Google, continue to roll out contact tracing applications, the need for comprehensive data privacy regulation is more pressing than ever.
This spring I had the pleasure of attending a conference entitled Digital Platforms: Innovation, Antitrust, Privacy & the Internet of Things hosted by the UIC John Marshall Law School Center for IP, Information & Privacy Law. Throughout the day, panelists spoke about various topics of intellectual property, including artificial intelligence antitrust issues, and more. But for me, the highlight of the afternoon was the session on privacy issues. Here is a bit of what I learned…
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.
On March 12, 2019, the Department of Justice (“DOJ”) announced revisions of the Corporate Enforcement Policy in the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. The changes now require company oversight of ephemeral messaging apps used by any employee, stock holder, or agent who discusses business records via the messaging platform. Publicly traded companies must now establish internal compliance policies to review use of ephemeral messaging services, provide ongoing oversight of the messaging services, and may want to completely prohibit the use of such messaging apps for business purposes.
New data privacy regulations entail questioning both current and future technologies. Recently, Amazon has introduced a store concept that eliminates everyone’s least favorite things about shopping, long lines and small talk. Amazon Go is the grocery store of the future and these stores allow consumers to walk in, pick up the items that they need, and then walk right back out. That’s it. No long lines, no cashiers, no shopping carts. However, as great as this concept seems, there are still concerns from a data privacy standpoint as Amazon needs to collect personal data from its consumers in order to be able to lawfully execute these checkout-less stores.