Amazon’s financial records have revealed that the Luxembourg data protection supervisory authority, the Commission Nationale pour la Protection des Données (“CNPD”), is fining the retailer’s European arm (Amazon Europe Core S.à.r.l.) an eyewatering 746 million euros (£636m or $838m) for breaches of the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (“GDPR”).

When the GDPR was introduced in May 2018, the potential for huge financial sanctions grabbed many headlines: it gives European supervisory authorities the power to impose fines of up to 20 million euros or 4% of annual global turnover (whichever is greater) for breaches of the GDPR. There have been some undeniably sizeable fines issued under the GDPR in the last three years. But the level of this particular fine is extraordinary: it’s the largest GDPR fine issued to date by a considerable margin. The second largest fine ever imposed under the GDPR was a comparatively paltry 50 million euros, levied against Google by CNIL (the French supervisory authority) in early 2019 (which you can read about here).


Continue Reading CNPD v. Amazon, the largest GDPR fine on record – what do we know so far?

New York City’s recently enacted biometric privacy law took effect July 9, 2021. While the law is vague as to exactly who must abide by certain subsections, it is undoubtedly consumer-focused. However, even if employers escape New York City’s biometric ordinance, a looming New York state law may soon impose more expansive biometric requirements on

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.


Continue Reading SEC Announces 2021 Information Security Examination Priorities – Five (5) Steps Every Firm Should Take to Prepare!

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.


Continue Reading Virginia’s New Consumer Data Protection Act (CDPA)

As we discussed in Part I, the United States does not have a single, comprehensive federal law governing biometric data.  However, we have recently seen an increasing number of states focusing on this issue.  Part I summarized legislative activity on this issue in 2020.  In this Part II, we discuss noteworthy legislation to monitor in 2021.

What to Expect in 2021

At least two states—New York and Maryland—have already introduced biometrics legislation in this first month of 2021.

New York – AB 27

On January 6, 2021, the New York Assembly introduced the Biometric Privacy Act (BPA), a New York state biometric law aimed at regulating businesses handling biometric data.  BPA will prohibit businesses from collecting biometric identifiers or information without first receiving informed consent from the individual, prohibit profiting from the data, and will require a publicly available written retention and destruction policy.  As proposed, the statute contains a private right of action; and if passed, it will permit consumers to sue businesses for improperly collecting and using their biometric data.  The statute follows Illinois’s BIPA, allowing recovery of $1,000 per negligent violation and $5,000 per intentional violation, or actual damages, whichever is greater, along with attorney’s fees and costs, and injunctive relief.


Continue Reading U.S. Biometrics Laws Part II: What to Expect in 2021

Healthcare providers and other covered entities are not required by HIPAA regulations to have “bulletproof” protections for safeguarding patient information stored in electronic form, according to a January 14, 2021 decision of the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. In University of Texas M.D. Anderson v. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the 5th Circuit vacated a $4.3 million civil monetary penalty imposed by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) against the University of Texas’ M.D. Anderson Cancer Center.

The case arises from three separate incidents where M.D. Anderson employees lost laptops and USB thumb drives that contained unencrypted protected health information (PHI) for more than 34,000 patients. M.D. Anderson reported the breach incidents to HHS’ Office for Civil Rights (OCR), the office tasked with enforcing HIPAA. As a result of the reported breaches, OCR ordered M.D. Anderson to pay $4.3 million in civil monetary penalties (CMPs). M.D. Anderson appealed the decision to an HHS administrative law judge and to the HHS Departmental Appeals Board (DAB), both of which upheld OCR’s penalties. M.D. Anderson argued that the HIPAA regulations do not require encryption, that it complied with the regulations and employed other effective measures to safeguard electronic protected health information (ePHI), that the three incidents were the fault of staff who violated M.D. Anderson’s policies, and that the proposed CMPs were excessive.


Continue Reading 5th Circuit Weakens HHS’ Ability to Enforce HIPAA Safeguards

Does your phone immediately unlock for use after you glance at it?  Have you visited your favorite social media platform only to find that you have been tagged in dozens of pictures?  Or how about that time you scanned your fingerprints or eyes to open your phone, gain admittance to a theme park, or pass through airport security?  These features all involve biometrics technology—the latest trend and high-growth area of technology used to help organizations provide consumers with a more effortless and interactive experience in exchange for personal information about your physical or behavioral attributes.  Companies should be mindful in collecting this data and how they use and store that information.

Biometrics include facial, fingerprint, iris, gestures, and voice recognition.  While biometrics technology is becoming more ubiquitous in daily life and being employed by more governmental agencies and service providers, new privacy considerations will continue to emerge as a result of the pieces of personal information shared by consumers to increase convenience.


Continue Reading As Biometrics Technology Permeates Everyday Life, What Laws Should Companies Be Aware Of?

The global coronavirus pandemic continues on, and the cyberattacks and scams continue to multiply.  In the midst of the pandemic, hackers are capitalizing on fears surrounding the outbreak by crafting COVID-19-themed attacks aimed at infecting computers with malware or obtaining sensitive, personal information.  Below are some of the latest examples of attacks and vulnerabilities to be aware of:

Continue Reading Update: Coronavirus Cyberscams and Other Attacks – Scammers Are Still at It

The New York Department of Financial Services (“NYDFS”) has issued a series of Industry Letters requiring regulated institutions to submit information regarding plans to manage risks associated with the novel coronavirus (“COVID-19”).  The Letters request descriptions of the entities’ planned responses to a variety of threats posed by COVID-19, including heightened cybersecurity risks.

The four Industry Letters issued by the NYDFS are directed to various regulated entities and require responses regarding the entities’ prospective responses to COVID-19.  Among the required responses are those regarding the regulated entities’ strategies to address specific cybersecurity-related risks, including:


Continue Reading NYDFS Seeks Assurances from Regulated Entities in the Wake of COVID-19

Last week a committee of the Virginia House of Delegates voted to send several privacy-related bills to a legislative commission for study after the current legislative session. Among those bills is the Virginia Privacy Act, proposed as a less onerous version of the California Consumer Privacy Act. Other bills referred for study address topics such as requirements for the destruction of records, online advertising and digital services directed to minors, and safe keeping of biometric data.

The Communications, Technology and Innovation Committee voted to “continue” the these privacy-related bills and directed the chairman of the committee to request the Joint Commission on Technology and Science (JCOTS) to study the legislation in advance of the 2021 legislative session. JCOTS consists of 13 legislators and its purpose is to evaluate emerging technology and science with the goal of promoting the development of sound public policies on those topics.


Continue Reading Virginia Punts Several Privacy-Related Bills to Out of Session Study