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The Supreme Court Punts on Clarifying the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act

The federal Computer Fraud and Abuse Act of 1986 (“CFAA”) has generated controversy and disagreement among courts and commentators regarding the scope of its application.  The statute, 18 U.S.C. § 1030, which provides for both criminal and civil penalties, prohibits accessing a computer or protected computer “without authorization” or in a manner “exceeding authorized access.”  Courts are divided as to the meaning of these phrases, yet the U.S. Supreme Court recently declined the opportunity to resolve the circuit split that has developed, leaving the exact scope of this important statute in question.

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Justice Department Accuses Google of “Alarming” Tactics in Fight over SCA Search Warrant

The ongoing dispute between the government and Google concerning the company’s refusal to hand over customer data stored on foreign servers has taken an odd twist.  Now, the Justice Department is demanding that Google be sanctioned for not abiding by the court’s most recent decision—ordering it to produce data associated with 22 email accounts—and calling Google’s conduct “a willful and contemptuous disregard of various court orders.”  The case is In the Matter of the Search of Content that Is Stored at Premises Controlled by Google, No. 16-mc-80263 (N.D. Cal.).

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California Court Weighs in on the FTC’s Data Security Enforcement Authority

Yesterday, a District Court in Northern California weighed in on the U.S. Federal Trade Commission’s (FTC) authority to protect consumers from “unfair” and “deceptive” data security practices.  The decision, which granted in part and denied in part the defendant’s motion to dismiss, is a mixed bag for the Commission.

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Equifax: The Empire State Strikes Back

Today, New York Governor Andrew M. Cuomo announced that he has directed the Department of Financial Services (DFS) to issue a new regulation requiring “credit reporting agencies to register with” the DFS, as well as comply with the Department’s “first-in-the-nation cybersecurity standard.”  According to Governor Cuomo, the Equifax breach was a “wakeup call,” and New York is now “raising the bar for consumer protections” with the “hope” the DFS’s approach “will be replicated across the nation.”

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After Equifax: What Should the Public Do?

As we have discussed in previous posts, Equifax Inc. suffered a cybersecurity breach potentially affecting 143 million individuals in the United States.  Although Equifax’s investigation is ongoing, the data at risk includes Social Security numbers, birth dates, and addresses.  Equifax has also said that the breach may have involved driver’s license numbers, credit card numbers, and “certain dispute documents with personal identifying information for approximately 182,000 U.S. consumers.”  That leaves just about everyone asking: What should we do?

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8th Circuit Finds Standing in Data Breach Case but Dismisses on Pleading Deficiencies

In one of the first federal appellate court rulings following the Ninth Circuit’s decision in Robins v. Spokeo, the Eighth Circuit delivered a pyrrhic victory for customers victimized by a data breach.  In Kuhns v. Scottrade, the Eighth Circuit ruled that, although the plaintiff had established standing to pursue a claim against Scottrade, Inc. resulting from a data breach that occurred in 2013, the customer failed to sufficiently allege that the brokerage firm breached its contractual obligations and affirmed dismissal of the case.

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Judge Sides with Government over Google in the Latest Battle Rematch over the Territorial Reach of the SCA

Another federal judge has rejected the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit’s interpretation of the Stored Communications Act (SCA), and has ordered Google to hand over customer email traffic—wherever located—to U.S. law enforcement.  More than a year ago, the Second Circuit held that Microsoft Corp. was not required to produce customer emails stored on foreign servers in response to an SCA warrant.  Since then, the Second Circuit’s ruling has been rejected by three different federal courts around the country.

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Hackers Target the Bottom Line: Business Operations and Earnings

Over the past several years, we have witnessed a fundamental shift in orchestrated cyber-attacks from hacking credit card data and healthcare information to targeting businesses, their operations and bottom lines.

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When Health Data Goes Missing: Largest Reported Ransomware Attack

In the aftermath of two powerful global ransomware attacks, a Michigan-based medical equipment provider has disclosed that hackers “encrypted our data files” and accessed more than 500,000 patient records in what is believed to be the largest reported ransomware attack on health care information.

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A question of harm: LabMD to face off with FTC at 11th Circuit

In a consequential test of the Federal Trade Commission’s authority as a data security regulator, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit will hear argument tomorrow in a case that will determine whether the agency must show a concrete consumer injury as an element of an enforcement action, just as private plaintiffs have been required to do for years.

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The Computer Fraud and Abuse Act Will Need To Wait Another Day In New York’s Commercial Division

Justice Shirley Kornreich recently issued one of the few New York state court decisions  that address the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (“CFAA”).  Spec Simple, Inc. v. Designer Pages Online LLC,  No. 651860/2015, 2017 BL 160865 (N.Y. Sup. Ct. May 10, 2017).  The CFAA criminalizes both accessing a computer without authorization and exceeding authorized access and thereby obtaining information from any protected computer.  Id. at *3 (citing 18 U.S.C. § 1030(a)(2)(C)). The CFAA also provides a civil cause of action to any person who suffers damage or loss because of a violation of the CFAA.  Id. at *4 (citing 18 U.S.C. § 1030(g)).  As discussed below, the decision provides a helpful look into the interpretation of CFAA claims in the future.

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Ajit Pai and the FCC’s Role in ISP Privacy Regulation under President Trump

On January 23, 2017, President Donald Trump named Ajit Pai as Chairman of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).  In his previous role as the senior Republican on the FCC under President Barack Obama, Mr. Pai was an outspoken critic of the agency’s decision to assert jurisdiction over Internet Service Providers (“ISPs”) and its rules governing broadband privacy.  Pai’s appointment suggests that significant changes may be on the horizon.

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Second Circuit Court of Appeals Denies Rehearing in Microsoft Case

Back in December 2013, a U.S. magistrate issued a seemingly routine warrant in a narcotics case demanding that Microsoft turn over messages from a customer’s email account that resided on a server in Ireland.  That warrant, which issued under a 1986 law called the Stored Communications Act (“SCA”), 18 U.S.C. § 2703, is still being debated today.

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Keeping Section 5 Alive: The FTC Brings Suit Against D-Link

The U.S. Federal Trade Commission (“FTC”) has filed suit against Taiwan-based D-Link Corporation and D-Link Systems, Inc. (collectively, “D-Link”), manufacturers and sellers of home networking devices including routers, cameras, baby monitors, and video recorders.  The lawsuit claims that D-Link failed to take reasonable steps to protect its devices from known and foreseeable risks of unauthorized access.

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“Life is Short. Have an Affair.” And Then Settle With the FTC.

Yesterday, the Federal Trade Commission (“FTC”) announced a settlement with the owners of “dating site” AshleyMadison.com, arising from a July 2015 data breach that received broad media coverage.  According to a proposed order filed in the District Court for the District of Columbia, the operators of the website are also simultaneously settling with thirteen states—including New York—and the District of Columbia.

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Hints of a Narrowing of the FTC’s Section 5 Authority Under a Trump Presidency

The transition of power from President Barack Obama to President-Elect Donald Trump is underway.  Although President-Elect Trump did not lay out specific policy prescriptions about data privacy or consumer protection during his candidacy, his recent choice of Dr. Joshua D. Wright to lead transition efforts at the Federal Trade Commission provides some hints as to the direction the agency may take under a Trump administration.

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Pokémon GO Exposes Risks of Bring-Your-Own-Device (BYOD) Policies

There’s no denying it: Pokémon GO is a phenomenon. 

The smartphone game, in which players use their mobile device camera and GPS to capture, battle, and train virtual creatures, was released in the United States on July 6th.  In a month, it has shot to the top of the App Store charts to become the biggest mobile game in U.S. history.  Within just days of its release, Pokémon GO already had surpassed app giants like Twitter and Tinder in number of downloads and active users, with more than 25 million users playing each day.

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FTC Slaps Down ALJ’s Data Security Ruling in LabMD, Sets Broad Mandate for Protection of “Sensitive” Consumer Data

In a sweeping statement of its data security expectations for organizations that maintain consumer information, the Federal Trade Commission on Friday found that LabMD, the defunct medical testing lab, failed to employ adequate data security safeguards in violation of Section 5 of the FTC Act, even though there was no indication that any information had been misused or compromised.

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Target Corp. Shareholders Walk Away from Derivative Lawsuits

The leadership team at Target Corp. has one less legal claim to worry about today from the company’s headline-making 2013 data breach.  And in an unusual twist, the shareholders who filed a series of derivative actions against Target’s directors and officers have waived the symbolic “white flag” by agreeing that the cases could be dropped so long as they were able to come back to Court to recover their legal fees.

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FTC Delays Ruling in LabMD Appeal

The Federal Trade Commission has decided to put off until late July a decision about whether to overturn a ruling by the agency’s chief administrative law judge in the closely watched data security action against LabMD, the Atlanta-based medical detection firm.  In a one-paragraph order issued late yesterday, the Commission extended the deadline for decision until July 28th “in order to give full consideration to the issues presented by the appeal in this proceeding.”

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US Regulators Investigate Chinese Steelmakers for Hacking Trade Secrets

The U.S. International Trade Commission (“ITC”) last week launched an investigation into United States Steel Corporation’s (“U.S. Steel”) complaint that Chinese hackers stole trade secret information—including proprietary methods for making lightweight steel—on behalf of Chinese steel producers.

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The Supreme Court Sends Spokeo Back

Today, the U.S. Supreme Court decided one of the Term’s most closely watched cases: Spokeo, Inc. v. Robins.  The 6-2 decision, while far from sweeping, creates a hurdle for plaintiffs in “no-injury” class actions.  

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A Closer Look At The Fallout From The Home Depot Data Breach

More than a year and a half ago, Home Depot announced that it had been a victim of one of the largest data breaches in U.S. history.  Media outlets reported that the breach had affected Home Depot’s customers who had made purchases using the company’s self-checkout terminals.

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LabMD’s Waiting Game: Lingering Questions over FTC’s Authority in Data Security Matters

A contentious legal battle over data security between the Federal Trade Commission and LabMD, a small medical testing lab, is chronicled in the latest edition of Bloomberg Businessweek.  Dune Lawrence’s report raises lingering questions about the FTC’s prosecution of a now-defunct company, tampered evidence and regulatory overreach.

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Federal Appeals Court Set to Issue One of the Most Important Privacy Rulings in a Generation

For months, the technology and business communities have been waiting anxiously for a Federal appeals court ruling on whether American companies can be forced to turn over customer information to U.S. law enforcement when that information is stored on servers abroad.  It’s the result of a legal appeal filed last year by Microsoft Corporation that was argued before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit more than seven months ago.

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Seventh Circuit (Again) Finds Consumers Have Standing To Sue Over Data Breaches

Yesterday, the Seventh Circuit held in Lewart v. P.F. Chang’s that customers who may have had personal information compromised in a P.F. Chang’s data breach have standing, at the motion-to-dismiss stage, to sue the company.  Given the Seventh Circuit’s 2015 opinion in Remijas v. Neiman Marcus, which involved similar facts, the decision in Lewart is not particularly surprising.  

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Traditional General Liability Policy Covers Medical Records Mishap

A U.S. appeals court yesterday held that a traditional corporate general liability policy triggered an insurer’s duty to defend a class action lawsuit alleging that a medical records company failed to properly secure patient records on its server.

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On the Front Lines of Cybersecurity: The Corporate Challenge

Recent surveys tell us that cybersecurity is the top risk faced by corporate America.  The Bank Director’s 2016 Risk Practices survey – out yesterday – disclosed that three quarters of bank executives and board members believe cybersecurity is their top concern.  And their general counsel agree.  In another recent study, general counsel said that cybersecurity was their top area of organizational risk as well.

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FTC Reviews Case Over Legal Standard For Data Security Enforcement Action

Faced with the prospect of overturning a decision by one of its own administrative law judges, the Federal Trade Commission on Tuesday explored ways in which to render a narrow decision.  The argument was the most recent chapter in the long running data security enforcement action against LabMD, the now defunct medical testing laboratory.

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CISA Is Now Law—What It Means for Your Organization

After several fits and starts, Congress finally passed the Cyber Information Sharing Act of 2015 (CISA) as part of the omnibus budget bill.  President Obama signed the bill into law on December 18, 2015.

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“Interoperable” Healthcare Data Will Be a Tempting Target

At a panel during last week’s Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, Edith Ramirez, chair of the Federal Trade Commission – America’s top privacy regulator – said she would not wear a Fitbit personal fitness tracker.  “I don’t want my sensitive health information being shared,” she explained.  And as it happens, Fitbit suffered a hack the same week.  Meanwhile, U.S. healthcare regulators have recently been promoting policies that promise to aggregate and render more accessible the health data of millions – whether that data comes from consumers using personal health devices like Fitbit or patient visits to doctors or hospitals. 

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The Privilege of PR: Application of the Attorney-Client Privilege to Crisis Communications and Public Relations in Breach Response Planning

Cyber-attacks have become a matter of everyday reality for all businesses: regardless of industry or size, it is no longer if a data breach will happen, but when.  And waiting for a breach to occur before designing and implementing a cyber incidence response plan is generally a recipe for disaster.  

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FTC Appeals ALJ Ruling Dismissing Its Claims Against LabMD

The legal wrangling between the Federal Trade Commission and LabMD, Inc. over data security continues.

On December 22, 2015, the FTC filed its appeal brief challenging Chief Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) D. Michael Chappell’s November 13, 2015 decision (the “Initial Decision”) dismissing the FTC’s complaint against LabMD, a now-defunct clinical testing laboratory alleged to have compromised the personal information of its customers.  The appeal, which will be presented to the full Commission, was expected, as the FTC previously filed a Notice of Appeal shortly before Thanksgiving.

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LifeLock Will Pay $100 Million to Settle (Again) with FTC

In a significant development, the FTC announced today that LifeLock, the identity theft protection company, has agreed to settle the FTC contempt charges against it for $100 million.  This is the largest monetary award the FTC has ever obtained in an order enforcement action.

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Long and Wyndham Road: The Federal Trade Commission Extends Section 5 Unfairness to Regulate Data Security

In a surprising development, Wyndham Worldwide Corporation settled a long running dispute last week with the Federal Trade Commission that arose from three data breaches Wyndham suffered between 2008-2010.  After an investigation that required Wyndham to produce more than one million pages of information, the FTC filed suit against Wyndham in the District Court of New Jersey under, among other legal basis, the unfairness prong of Section 5 of the FTC Act.  

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FTC Blasted in LabMD Data Security Case

In a long-running and highly contentious data security enforcement action against LabMD, a small medical testing laboratory, the Federal Trade Commission was handed a stunning defeat late Friday.  In a 92-page Initial Decision, Chief Administrative Law Judge D. Michael Chappell dismissed the FTC’s case against LabMD – after a full administrative trial – based on the Commission’s failure to prove it was “likely” that consumers had been substantially injured in two alleged data security incidents dating back nearly seven years.

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