Privacy & Security
Recently, Google added new functionality to the Google Arts & Culture app that allows users to snap a selfie and find artwork from around the world that resembles the user. The app very quickly rose to the top of the charts as users around the United States took plenty of photos. Almost everywhere around the United States at least. Illinois and a few other states have laws that prohibit the collection or use of biometric (iris, fingerprint, etc.) data by businesses except under certain circumstances. The Google Arts & Culture app uses biometric data to compare a user’s image to the Mona Lisa (or any other portrait).
The Trump administration has established a new division within the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) called the Conscience and Religious Freedom Division. The stated purpose of this office is to “restore federal enforcement of our nation’s laws that protect the fundamental and unalienable rights of conscience and religious freedom.”
One day after the creation of this division, HHS proposed a new rule, providing further protections to healthcare workers who object to providing certain types of care to patients—including elective sterilization, gender reassignment surgery, or emergency contraception—based on their personal religious beliefs. Additionally, the Trump administration issued a new directive, reversing an Obama administration directive which prohibited states from refusing to send federal funds to qualified providers. This new division, new rule, and new directive serve to ensure the already-existing rights of physicians, nurses, and healthcare staff at the expense of their patients.
The disclosures of major security breaches in 2017 such as Verizon, Equifax, Uber, the National Security Agency and the Transportation Safety Administration increased consumer concern about the safety of their personal and financial data. These disclosures also contributed to renewed Congressional analysis of data security standards in the financial services sector and review of current federal and state regulatory regimes. Insider cyber threats have become security remains a threat as well. In August 2017, the Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC”) announced insider trading charges against seven individuals who gained access to confidential merger and acquisition data through a technology consultant’s misuse of an investment bank’s new computer system. State actions, governmental agencies and the financial services industry are actively combatting the growth of cyber-security threats.
It happens in every emergency department: a law enforcement officer comes into the ER at two o’clock in the morning and demands to test the blood alcohol levels of a patient brought in after an auto accident. The officer pulls an exhausted nurse to the side in the hopes that the nurse will forget his or her training, or become anxious enough to give up the information for fear of being arrested. Yet no matter the specific facts, the question remains: can a hospital give law enforcement officers a patient’s PHI without authorization from the patient? In some situations, is it even required?
There is a provision under the HIPAA Privacy Rule that allows, and in some cases, requires, entities to disclose patient’s PHI to law enforcement without the patient’s authorization. However, state law can complicate this picture with more restrictive regulations and guidance.
Google answered Amazon’s Echo Dot by recently launching their own pint-sized smart speaker, the Google Home Mini. Recently, Google was forced to disable one of the features on the Home Mini after it was discovered that a technical glitch led to near 24/7 audio recording. Google responded quickly and appropriately, investigating the cause and quickly releasing an update to disable the hardware responsible for the glitch. The Equifax hack – a breach of personal data including social security numbers, driver’s license information, and other credit details – exposed nearly half the country and waited months to respond. Upcoming European legislation that can significantly impact American companies with European Union clients may be part of the reason for their drastically different responses.
On September 7, 2017, the credit bureau Equifax announced a giant security breach affecting the personal information of approximately 143 million US consumers, as well as thousands of consumers overseas. With numerous lawsuits piling up against the company and almost half of our nation’s population at a significant increased risk of identity theft, Americans are left wondering why this happened, how it could have been prevented, and what will become of Equifax and our credit reporting systems.
In the last month, multiple large-scale data breaches were reported by various entities, with 3 breaches reported in the past week alone. Unfortunately, even the most well-known entities do not stand a chance against increasing technological abilities of bad actors. Since the Equifax breach in early September, Whole Foods, Sonic, Deloitte and the Securities Exchange Commission, among others, had similar large-scale breaches affecting consumers across the country.
Illinois’ Personal Information Protection Act (“PIPA”) became effective on January 1, 2017. Illinois is just one of many states that recently strengthened their data breach notification systems and created data security laws to enhance protection of personal information. Like other state provisions, Illinois created stronger safeguards for personal information transmitted electronically. This act requires that all personal information provided electronically must be encrypted or redacted. The amendments to PIPA (1) broadened the statute’s definition of personal information; (2) clarified the safe harbor for encryption; (3) addressed required notification to residents after a breach; and (4) established limited exemptions.
Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) allows the United States government to obtain access to the communications (e.g. emails) of non-U.S. citizens without a warrant. The rationale behind the law is its potential for use in gathering intelligence on potential terrorists and potential terrorist activity. The law has become controversial because intelligence on U.S. citizens has incidentally occurred as well, as emails and phone calls from U.S. citizens have been contained in intelligence-storing databases. As the law expires at the end of 2017, Congress is considering changing the ways intelligence is collected pursuant to the collection procedures stipulated under the law.
On September 25th, a former Okaloosa County, Florida paramedic, Christopher Wimmer, was sentenced to six months jail time and three years’ probation for taking “selfies” with incapacitated victims in ambulances last year and sending them to a co-worker. He and his co-worker, Kaylee Renee Dubois, were engaged in a “selfie war” with each other and snapped images and videos of patients in ambulances who were unconscious, sedated, intoxicated, or incapacitated. In total, 101 photos, 64 videos, and 41 patients were photographed or recorded during the so-called war, and a mere three patients consented to photographs being taken of them. Employees’ missteps with the privacy rights of patients have a negative lasting effect on their employer, their own career, and their patients.