The Equifax and Facebook-Cambridge Analytica scandals, coupled with the proliferation of state privacy and security laws such as the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA)—as well as proposed laws in Washington and Massachusetts—have increased demand for a comprehensive national privacy law.  Last week, the Senate announced plans to hold hearings to discuss a proposed privacy law.  The Government Accountability Office (GAO) has just released its report recommending that Congress develop comprehensive privacy legislation to enhance consumer protections.  Continue Reading Government Accountability Office Recommends Comprehensive Privacy Legislation

On February 7, 2019, the Office of Civil Rights (OCR) of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services published the resolution agreement for its final HIPAA settlement of 2018.  The resolution agreement cited two breach notifications that OCR received from the parent of several hospitals in California.  In 2013, the provider notified OCR of a breach that occurred when one of its contractors removed electronic security protections from a server.  This breach affected more than 50,000 individuals.  In 2015, the provider submitted notice of a second breach, this one resulting from an employee’s activation of the wrong website, affecting more than 11,000 individuals. Continue Reading OCR Closes the Book on 2018 With $3 Million HIPAA Settlement

The Illinois Supreme Court held on January 25, 2019, that plaintiffs filing suit under the Biometric Information Privacy Act—which regulates how private entities disclose and discard biometric identifiers—do not need actual damages for standing. The decision has serious implications for companies collecting biometric data from Illinois residents.

The Act provides a private right of action to individuals “aggrieved” by any violation, allowing them to seek, among other remedies, liquidated or actual damages, attorneys’ fees, and costs. However, there has been widespread uncertainty as to whether an aggrieved individual asserting a private action under the Act needed to show that he or she suffered an actual injury as a result of an alleged violation, or if a violation of the Act in and of itself conveys standing. Continue Reading Illinois Supreme Court: No ‘Actual Harm’ Required for Biometric Information Privacy Act Claims

The prevailing wisdom after last year’s enactment of the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) was that it would result in other states enacting consumer privacy legislation. The perceived inevitability of a “50-state solution to privacy” motivated businesses previously opposed to federal privacy legislation to push for its enactment. With state legislatures now convening, we have identified what could be the first such proposed legislation in New York Senate Bill 224.

The proposed legislation is not nearly as extensive as the CCPA and is perhaps more analogous to California’s Shine the Light Law. The proposed legislation would require a “business that retains a customer’s personal information [to] make available to the customer free of charge access to, or copies of, all of the customer’s personal information retained by the business.” It also would require businesses that disclose customer personal information to third parties to disclose certain information to customers about the third parties and the personal information that is shared. Businesses would have to provide this information within 30 days of a customer request and for a twelve-month lookback period. The rights also would have to be disclosed in online privacy notices. Notably, the bill would create a private right of action for violations of its provisions.

We will continue to monitor this legislation and any other proposed legislation.

As we turn the page on 2018, let’s reflect on some of the key privacy and cybersecurity issues that will continue to occupy our hearts and minds in 2019.

Owning the Mega-Breach

2018 was the year in which data breaches in mergers and acquisitions became the iceberg in full view. This fuller realization of cyber risk in transactions, though, actually has its origin in September 2016 – when Yahoo and Marriott were in the midst of deals that would involve some of the largest data breaches on record. Continue Reading Some Thoughts on the Year in Privacy and Data Security Law

Just in case you needed a reminder that the California Consumer Privacy Act of 2018 (CCPA) will go into effect on January 1, 2020, the California Department of Justice announced that it will hold six statewide forums to collect feedback from stakeholders as part of its duty to promulgate regulations “that will establish procedures to facilitate consumers’ rights.” The meetings will be held between January 8, 2019 and February 15, 2019. Further information is available at https://www.oag.ca.gov/privacy/ccpa. The California Department of Justice also is accepting comments via email and mail. Members of Ballard Spahr’s privacy and data security practice group are already regularly assisting clients in complying with the CCPA and are available to consult on any written comments that entities may be considering.

A relatively quiet year for HIPAA enforcement is ending with a small flourish.  The Office of Civil Rights of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has announced two settlements with covered entities within the span of eight days.

The first settlement involved Advanced Care Hospitalists (ACH), a company that provides internal medicine physicians to hospitals and nursing homes in Florida.  In 2014, ACH received notice from a local hospital that individually identifiable patient information had been posted on the website of a third party billing provider.  ACH reported the breach, which ultimately led to an HHS investigation. HHS found that:

  • The disclosure affected 9,225 patients.
  • ACH failed to enter into a business associate agreement with one or more vendors who had access to protected health information (PHI).
  • ACH did not implement privacy, security, or breach notification policies and procedures until after the breach was discovered.
  • ACH failed to conduct a security risk analysis until after the breach was discovered.

To settle these matters, ACH agreed to pay a $500,000 penalty and fulfill its obligations under a supervised corrective action plan that focuses on the identified failures.

The second settlement followed from a complaint lodged with HHS against Pagosa Springs Medical Center (PSMC) in Colorado.   The ensuing investigation revealed:

  • The impermissible disclosure of the PHI of at least 557 individuals to a former employee whose access to PSMC’s information systems was not revoked upon termination of employment.
  • The impermissible disclosure of the PHI of at least 557 individuals to a business associate without an appropriate business associate agreement.

Continue Reading A Pair of Year-End HIPAA Settlements

Hold the date: Phil Yannella, Ballard Spahr partner and co-chair of the firm’s Privacy & Data Security Group, will participate in an ACC webcast on Tuesday, December 4, 2018 titled “The State of US State Privacy Laws.” The webcast will focus on the recent proliferation of US state privacy and data security laws, some of which provide for a private right of action, and discuss how companies can provide “reasonable” security to customer and employee data. You can register for the webcast here. 

 

Since the General Data Protection Regulation (“GDPR”) took effect on May 25, 2018, US companies without facilities or employees in Europe have struggled to understand the extraterritorial scope of the GDPR. Under Article 3(2), US companies without an “establishment” in the EU are required to comply with the GDPR where their processing activities relate to the “offering of goods or services” to EU data subjects or where they “monitor” the behavior of EU data subjects. The meaning of these concepts is a particularly vexing question for US companies that have a website accessible to Europeans or have some European customers, but lack a physical presence in the EU. Continue Reading EDPB Draft Guidelines on Extraterritorial Scope of the GDPR Provide Few Clear Answers for US Companies

On November 21, 2018, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court drastically changed the data breach litigation landscape by holding that an employer has a common law duty to use reasonable care to safeguard employees’ personal information stored on an Internet-accessible computer. The Court further held that Pennsylvania’s economic loss doctrine permits recovery for “purely pecuniary damages” on a negligence claim premised on a breach of such a duty. Continue Reading Pennsylvania Supreme Court Recognizes Common Law Duty to Safeguard Employees’ Personal Data