On January 21, 2021, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) published proposed modifications to the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA) and the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health Act of 2009 (HITECH), discussed in a previous McGuireWoods’ post. The comment period for these proposals recently ended on May 6, 2021, and HHS received almost 1500 comments from interested stakeholders. If finalized, these proposals will require HIPAA-covered entities and business associates to implement many changes, including updates to their policies, procedures, security standards, notices of privacy practices, authorization and disclosure forms, and business associate agreements. In the age of digital targeting and ransomware, possibly the most important of these is a change to security standards.
On May 12, President Biden signed an executive order mandating that the federal government significantly improve cybersecurity within its networks and modernize federal cyber defenses. This move follows a series of cyberattacks on private companies and federal government networks over the past year, including a recent incident that resulted in gasoline shortages along the U.S. East Coast.
To learn about new standards for federal information systems, which will trigger wide-reaching changes for federal contractors and private sector industry participants, see the full alert on our website.
On April 14, 2021, the United States Department of Labor (the “DOL”) issued for the first time guidance to retirement plan sponsors, fiduciaries, record keepers, service providers and plan participants guidance on cybersecurity issues. The DOL’s press release includes three pieces of guidance, including: (1) Tips for Hiring Service Providers; (2) Cybersecurity Program Best Practices; and (3) Online Security Tips.
The Employee Benefits Security Administration, a sub-agency of the DOL (the “EBSA”) long ago stated that addressing cybersecurity has been on the agency’s “to do” list and even published a report in 2016 reflecting the need for such guidance, which we previously covered here.
The Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974, as amended (“ERISA”), includes fiduciary standards that require a retirement plan to be administered in accordance with a standard of care for a prudent person who is familiar with such matters. Common sense dictates that ERISA fiduciaries administer their plans in accordance with industry standards for cybersecurity, safeguard plan assets and ensure that appropriate controls are in place to avoid financial losses to plans that may result from a cybersecurity breach. However, the legal issues concerning who is responsible (plan participant, plan sponsor or record keeper) remain open questions in many jurisdictions.
The technology sector runs the gamut from artificial intelligence (AI), the Internet of Things (IoT) to SaaS companies or cybersecurity, and from the biggest household names to the smallest companies being operated out of garages. The rise of AI and traps for the unwary were previously covered here. Risks of investing in SaaS Solutions can be found here and here. Technology is everywhere in 2021, even in the smallest brick and mortar shops around. Technology investing offers lucrative opportunities for investors large and small, but there are many traps for the unwary, such as “zero-day exploits.”
Almost exactly a year ago, the first COVID-19 tuition reimbursement lawsuits were filed against higher education institutions across the United States and we warned of the continued onslaught of such litigation. With the filing of those reimbursement class actions decreasing, higher education institutions should be cognizant of a potential new wave of COVID-19 class actions: privacy class action lawsuits related to the COVID-19 vaccine.
On April 1, 2021, the U.S. Supreme Court issued its long-awaited opinion in Facebook v. Duguid, which resolved a circuit split regarding the meaning of “automatic telephone dialing system” (autodialer or ATDS) under the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA). In a decision authored by Justice Sonia Sotomayor, the court adopted the narrow, pro-defendant definition of autodialer.
On March 9, the Department of Health and Human Services announced it was extending until May 6, 2021, the comment period for proposed changes to regulations implementing the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 and the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health Act of 2009.
Read our complete alert to learn more about this development and the proposed rule, expected to draw significant interest and comment from stakeholders in the healthcare industry.
2021 is shaping up to be a groundbreaking year for employment litigation topics, and Illinois’ Biometric Information Privacy Act (BIPA) is no exception. State and federal appellate courts in Illinois are poised to decide several open issues, including the proper limitations period, whether the Workers Compensation Act pre-empts BIPA claims and whether BIPA liquidated damages are measured on a per-employee or per-scan basis.
Read our full alert to learn more about how these appeals can affect employers’ biometric privacy obligations and exposure for violations.
“Information security is critical to the operation of the financial markets and the confidence of its participants. . . The Division is acutely focused on working with firms to identify and address information security risks, including cyber-attack related risk . . .” SEC Division of Examinations, 2021 Examination Priorities, at 24.
On March 3, 2021, the Securities and Exchange Commission’s newly renamed Division of Examinations (EXAMS) (formerly the Office of Compliance Inspections and Examinations (OCIE)) announced its 2021 examination priorities. Information security and operational resiliency ranked number two out of the top five priorities sending a clear message that the SEC is focused on emergent security threats, particularly cyber-attacks, resulting from the sudden and unprecedented increase in remote operations.
On March 2, 2021, Governor Northam signed into law Virginia’s own Consumer Data Protection Act (“Virginia CDPA” or the “Act”), a bill that brings together concepts from the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) as well as the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) and the California Privacy Rights Act (CPRA). It is the first of its kind legislation on the East Coast. The law will go into effect on January 1, 2023.
The drafters of the Virginia CDPA appear to have benefited from observing the pitfalls and problems that arose in the development and implementation of both GDPR and CCPA. The Virginia bill deftly avoids several of those by incorporating narrower, more tailored definitions that clearly exclude categories of data and businesses over which there was (and continues to be) some confusion with respect to both the EU/UK and California compliance regimes. It also adopts, in concept, the framework of the GDPR, and even some of its language. Like GDPR, it characterizes the party who initially collects and controls personal data as the “controller” and obligates that party to be a good steward of the data, through transparency with the consumer, accountability for sharing the data with third parties (“processors”), and a duty to implement appropriate data security to safeguard the data. It will be enforced by the Virginia Attorney General. Notably, there is no private right of action under the Act.