Over the last few years privacy, and the lack of comprehensive protection, have made numerous headlines. From overly inquisitive mobile applications that fail to disclose how cell photo data is accessed and shared (Path) to handset manufacturers failures to properly inculcate privacy in the design and manufacturing process (HTC) to security lapses at government databases resulting in exposure of sensitive personal information (South Carolina), consumers, regulators and legislators are waking up to privacy issues.

Recent developments highlight the trend in Privacy

In the U.S. we lack a single comprehensive privacy law, although many state and federal laws address various aspects of collecting, storing and sharing personal information. In the absence of a single, over-arching, mandate, legislators and regulators are stepping into fill at perceived need.

GPS, Location & Privacy

The Geolocation Privacy and Surveillance (GPS) Act addresses use of location data by law enforcement. The bill (not yet law) requires police to obtain a warrant based on probable cause whenever it seeks “location information.” Unfortunately, the term “location information” is very broadly defined, does not distinguish requests for access based on the level of precision, time period, or whether the information is for past or future conduct.

Proposed Federal Privacy Standards

Two bills introduced this year aim to create a baseline level of privacy protection at the federal level. John Kerry (D-MA) and Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) introduced S. 799, the Commercial Privacy Bill of Rights Act of 2011, to create a regulatory framework for the comprehensive protection of personal data for individuals, enforceable by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). Similarly, Rep. Cliff Stearns (R-FL) is promoting a Consumer Privacy Protection Act (H.R.1528), directed at consumers and focused on restricting the sale or disclosure of personal information.

FTC Protects Privacy Under Mantle of Consumer Protection

As a result of alleged data security failures that led to three data breaches at Wyndham hotels in less than two years, the Federal Trade Commission filed suit against hospitality company Wyndham Worldwide Corporation. The case against Wyndham is part of the FTC’s ongoing efforts to make sure that companies live up to the promises they make about privacy and data security.

Wyndham’s web site privacy policy claimed that, “We recognize the importance of protecting the privacy of individual-specific (personally identifiable) information collected about guests, callers to our central reservation centers, visitors to our Web sites, and members participating in our Loyalty Program …”

The FTC complaint alleges that Wyndham failed to maintain adequate and industry standard security measures by storing credit-card information in unencrypted format, allowing servers to remain unpatched, and failing to use firewalls.

The FTC alleges that these failures led to fraudulent charges on consumers’ accounts, millions of dollars in fraud loss, and the export of hundreds of thousands of consumers’ payment card account information to an Internet domain address registered in Russia.

Most notably, the lawsuit will test whether the Federal Trade Commission has the jurisdiction to compel companies to provide a certain level of cybersecurity in order to safeguard consumer personal information.

Privacy Remains Top Concern

Many companies across many industries, financial services, higher education and healthcare, just to name a few, are facing a wide range of security and privacy concerns, scrambling to implement A defensible security framework and demonstrate compliance. It’s alarming, considering the significant consequences associated with not complying.

Organizations can lose contracts, customers and their reputation. That could put some out of business.

Compliance Preparation & Best Practices

Large organizations can spend many months and millions of dollars on compliance. Your business need not go to such extremes. To prevent getting caught by surprise and to prepare for the compliance journey, I’ve listed below some suggested best practices.

Periodic risk assessments. Evaluate potential damage and disruption caused by unauthorized access, use, disclosure, modification, or destruction of data or systems.

Policies and procedures. Incorporate procedures for detecting, reporting, and responding to security incidents, as well as business continuity plans.

Standardize. Set standards of acceptable information security for networks, facilities, and information systems.

Train Employees. Awareness training for employees, contractors, and other users of information systems is critical. Articulate the security risks associated with activities and define users’ responsibility for complying with policies and procedures.

Test & Evaluate. Periodic assessment of the effectiveness of information security policies, procedures, practices, and controls helps determine weak spots. At a minimum they should be conducted annually, according to Ford.

Respond & Repair. Have a pre-defined process for planning, implementing, evaluating, and documenting remedial actions designed to address legal, PR, HR and related risks in the event of a breach.

THIS IS NOT LEGAL ADVICE. The procedures outlined above are merely suggestions and there is no guarantee that implementation will reduce risk or mitigate liability.

Please contact Leavens, Strand, Glover & Adler at 866-734-2568 for a free consultation to learn how LSGA can help meet your specific needs.

The rapid growth and expansion in the mobile market presents a number of privacy and security issues for mobile software and hardware developers, platform operators, advertisers and marketers who collect, store, use and share consumer information. As awareness of privacy risks grow among consumers, legislators and regulators are increasing scrutiny of mobile privacy and privacy policies in mobile apps.

Businesses operating in the mobile industry are facing a widening array of Regulatory compliance issues. Staying abreast of legal risks and issues can be daunting. How can mobile operators and application developers spot trends and adjust strategies to start competitive? First, keep an eye on FTC activity. Second, monitor new bills coming up in Congress. Third, follow this blog, adlerlaw.wordpress.com.

FTC Privacy Enforcement Actions

Earlier this year, the FTC expanded mobile privacy obligations beyond software to include hardware makers when it announced a settlement with HTC America over charges that HTC failed to use adequate “security by design” in millions of consumer mobile devices. As a result, the company is required to patch vulnerabilities on the devices which include #Smartphones and #Tablets. The settlement, the first action involving a mobile device manufacturer and the new “Privacy By Design” guidelines, sheds some light on the legal risks for mobile device manufacturers and, to some extent, mobile application developers.

Congressional Privacy Laws, Bills & Initiatives

Not surprisingly, federal legislators are taking up the mantle of Consumer Privacy in the area of Mobile Applications. In January 2013, U.S. Rep. Hank Johnson, introduced his mobile privacy bill, The Application Privacy, Protection and Security Act of 2013, or the “APPS Act,”. The bill focuses on transparency, user control and security, mandating that an application 1) provide the user with notice of the terms and conditions governing the collection, use, storage, and sharing of the personal data, and 2) obtain the consent of the user to the terms and conditions. Significantly, the privacy notice is required to include a description of the categories of personal data that
will be collected, the categories of purposes for which the personal data will be used, and the categories of third parties with which the personal data will be shared.

The Bill also requires that application developers have a data retention policy that governs the length for which the personal data will be stored and the terms and conditions applicable to storage, including a description of the rights of the user and the process by which the user may exercise such rights in addition to data security and access procedures and safeguards.

App developers unaware of the data protection requirements may face significant risks and potential harm to their reputation among users of smart devices. If you have concerns about what key data protection and privacy legal requirements apply to mobile applications and the types of processing an app may undertake contact us for a mobile app legal audit. Vague or incomplete descriptions of the ways which a mobile app handles data or a lack of meaningful consent from end users before that processing takes place can lead to significant legal risk. Poor security measures, an apparent trend towards data maximisation and the elasticity of purposes for which personal data are being collected further contribute to the data protection risks found within the current app environment.

Learn more David M. Adler here.

AUSTIN, Texas — A divided House vote provides momentum for Texas employees who wish to shield personal text messages, email passwords under a bill backed by Democratic State Rep. Hellen Giddings and given preliminary approval Thursday.

Proponents say Texas workers need the same social media protections provided in several other states. The bill prohibits employers from asking job applicants or employees for passwords to access their Facebook, Twitter or other personal accounts. Opponents argue it will provide “safe harbor” for employees to steal proprietary information at the workplace through their personal accounts.

No specific penalties are spelled out for employers who would violate the law.

The Texas law is another reminder of the ongoing evolution of Social Media law and regulation as legislators and private businesses struggle to understand how these technologies affect everyone’s rights, obligations and remedies.

If you or your business is concerned about social media legal and regulatory compliance, contact David Adler at Leavens, Strand, Glover & Adler. 866-734-2568 dadler@lsglegal.com.

Image representing CloudFlare as depicted in C...

Image via CrunchBase

I just returned from RSAConference 2013 where I had the privilege and honor of giving a presentation of the legal risks caused by social media in the workplace. As a speaker-attendee, I had the priceless benefit of access to all the other speakers and programs held during the conference.

One such program I attended was “We Were Hacked: Here’s What You Should Know”. The speakers, Matthew Prince (@eastdakota) CEO of CloudFlare, and Mat Honan (@mat) writer for Wired Magazine, shared their common experience as targets of high profile hacks. Hearing the details from them first hand, including information from interviews with the hackers themselves, I learned how easy it is to be the victim of hacking and how it’s the little things that create exploitable seams in our information security barriers.

Rather than rewrite their stories, I thought I would share three simple lessons I learned that I’ve already implemented and you should too. Besides, Matt does a better job telling his own story which can be found here.

Here are the three things I learned about how you can protect yourself and others in your organization.

First, security attacks go after the “low hanging fruit” and that often means figuring out a way to exploit your personal email address. With so many web-based services and so much login information to remember, many of us use our personal email as our username for everything from the web sites on which we comment, to our online photo gallery, to our online banking service. Unfortunately, this is probably the address we use for password recovery if we forget. Given that our digital lives are easily mapped, hackers already have one piece of the two-piece login puzzle: they know your user name.

TIP NO. 1: Use a private, obscure email address for your more sensitive information.

Second, once a hacker has accessed your accounts, your computer and your files, the fun has just begun for them. As Matt Honan described, these often adolescent script kiddies simply don’t understand the value of your stored memories and other information. In his case, all the photos of his children were permanently deleted. Regardless of a hacker attack, stuff happens and you don’t want to lose everything because you we’re too lazy to back up.

TIP NO. 2: Back Up your digital life, early and often.

Third, today’s’ Internet is an interdependent ecosystem. Just because you or your organization takes security seriously, doesn’t mean that other do as well. Your internal systems are not enough. Like it or not, the seams of your security perimeter are intertwined and permeated by the services and systems of customers and vendors. For most consumers, the there is a Hobbesian choice of Security v. Convenience. Multiple login usernames and super long passwords are difficult to remember and tedious to use. As a result, most people choose the least secure means of authentication on the assumption that using astringent password is enough. Unfortunately, some people don’t even bothers with that. A recent ZoneAlarm study found that “password” was the fourth most commonly used password by consumers.

Google, Facebook and others have started using two-factor authentication. Two-factor authentication requires that one enter a code after entering the username/password combo. The code is sent via, text message, voice call or email. This greatly reduces the chances of unauthorized access because hackers would need to have your phone, in addition to your username/password combo.

TIP NO. 3: Whenever possible enable two-factor authentication.

Please understand that there is no “magic bullet” when it comes to Cybersecurity. Taking these precautions does not guarantee that you won’t be attached or that your account information won’t be accessed. However, these are important and easy steps that you can take to improve your personal data security.

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As a result of the rapid shift in marketing from unilateral one-to-many communications, to the multilateral, many-to-many or many-to-one conversations enabled by Social Media, employees and employers are struggling to manage accounts that are used for both work and personal purposes.

This new phenomenon has benefits, but it also creates a number of legal challenges. For employees, it may result in greater efficiency, more opportunities for authentic customers engagement and the ability to stay on top of the most current grands and business issues. For employers, it presents opportunity to reap substantial benefits from lower communications and customer support costs. For in-house counsel, it raises a host of legal and practical issues with few easy solutions and significant liability and regulatory risks.

First, there are hardware issues. Smartphones, tablets and other personal electronics often have social networking capabilities built in. in addition, they contain contain both personal and business data. Because these devices are always on and always connected, they are more than just personal property. They have become essential business tools. For both sides of the workplace equation, employers and employees must understand where the privacy lines fall between personal versus work-related information.

Second, there are data issues. Employers must balance their needs to monitor employee usage, employees’ privacy concerns, and the risk of liability for theft or exposure of data if a device is lost or stolen, or from lack of proper safeguards on account usage. For in-house counsel tasked with drafting policies to address these risks, , Prior to implementation of any policy, the legal team needs to educate front line employees and management on reasonable expectations of privacy and security and the harms that the organization seeks to prevent.

Lastly, recent cases such as the Cristou v. Beatport litigation, highlight the struggle to define and control the beginning and end of employee social media accounts, ownership and protection of intellectual property and the post termination risks that arise from the absence of appropriate policies.

As we prepare to start a new year, the time is ripe to establish security and privacy policies governing creation, maintenance and use of employees’ social media accounts for work functions. In-house counsel must lead the charge to educate, inform and train employees about privacy, security and evidence-recovery implications associated with use of social media.

Company Sanctioned for ” History Sniffing”

FTC Settlement Puts an End to “History Sniffing” by Online Advertising Network Charged With Deceptively Gathering Data on Consumers

You know the old adage, the Internet is forever. Well, so is your browsing history, apparently. On December 5, 2012, the FTC announced that an online advertising company agreed to settle Federal Trade Commission charges that it used “history sniffing” to secretly and illegally gather data from millions of consumers about their interest in sensitive medical and financial issues ranging from fertility and incontinence to debt relief and personal bankruptcy.

“Consumers searching the Internet shouldn’t have to worry about whether someone is going to go sniffing through the sensitive, personal details of their browsing history without their knowledge,” said FTC Chairman Jon Leibowitz. “This type of unscrupulous behavior undermines consumers’ confidence, and we won’t tolerate it.”

The defendant, Epic Marketplace shared information with a large advertising network that has a presence on 45,000 websites. Consumers who visited any of the network’s sites received a cookie, which stored information about their online practices including sites they visited and the ads they viewed. The cookies allowed Epic to serve consumers ads targeted to their interests, a practice known as online behavioral advertising.

Mobile Applications (Apps) Continue to Threaten Childrens’ Privacy

Kids’ Data Still Collected, Shared without Parents’ Knowledge, Consent

The Federal Trade Commission issued a new staff report, “Mobile Apps for Kids: Disclosures Still Not Making the Grade,” [PDF here ] examining the privacy disclosures and practices of apps offered for children in the Google Play and Apple App stores. The report details the results of the FTC’s second survey of kids’ mobile apps.

The FTC first surveyed kids’ mobile apps in 2011. Since then there has been little progress toward giving parents the information they need to determine what data is being collected from their children, how it is being shared, or who will have access to it. Many any of the apps examined included interactive features, such as connecting to social media, and sent information from the mobile device to ad networks, analytics companies, or other third parties, without disclosing these practices to parents.

Disturbingly, the shared information included login information across multiple sites, GPs location information and device ID information.

Experts: State Needs Long-Term Cyber Security Plan
WLTX.com

By TIM SMITH — The Greenville News. A month after state officials learned of a massive data breach at the Department of Revenue, officials are still discussing what security measures to take to protect all of the state’s computer systems.

How Obama’s reelection may spur work on cybersecurity in the United States
The Next Web (blog)

Now that the President’s electoral and popular vote victories are in the books, their various ramifications are still being felt. One key element of the addition of four more years to the President’s legacy is the issue of cybersecurity.

Israel’s HLS 2012 Event Highlights Cyber Security Innovations
Defense Update

The Cyber Security panel taking place in Tel-Aviv this week at the HLS 2012 event is attracting considerable interest on the backdrop of the recent revelations of massive Iranian cyber attacks crippling the networks of Aramco Oil Company in Saudi Arabia.

Cyber security facility launched
Alpena News
YPSILANTI, Mich. (AP) — Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder has announced the opening of a facility designed to help electronic security professionals detect and prevent cyber threats and attacks.

Evolving Cyber Crooks Waiting For That Click
The Borneo Post
On the final day of the three-day Cyber Security Awareness campaign, Mohd Izuddin bin Hj Md Hussin, Learning Solution Specialist from Tech One Global, who delivered a public talk on ‘Protect your Computer, Your Family and Yourself’ at Times Square.

Is Obama’s Cybersecurity Executive Order Imminent?
Of course, there remains the chance that Congress will pass some version of a cybersecurity bill before the president can issue his edict.

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