On Wednesday, October 6th, Governor Gavin Newsom signed SB 41, the Genetic Information Privacy Act, which expands genetic privacy protections for consumers in California, including those interacting with direct-to-consumer (“DTC”) genetic testing companies.  In a recent Inside Privacy blog post, our colleagues discussed SB 41 and the growing patchwork of state genetic privacy laws

Last Friday, October 1, the Protecting DNA Privacy Act (HB 833), a new genetic privacy law, went into effect in the state of Florida establishing four new crimes related to the unlawful use of another person’s DNA.  While the criminal penalties in HB 833 are notable, Florida is not alone in its focus on increased genetic privacy protections.  A growing number of states, including Utah, Arizona, and California, have begun developing a net of genetic privacy protections to fill gaps in federal and other state legislation, often focused on the privacy practices of direct-to-consumer (“DTC”) genetic testing companies.  While some processing of genetic information is covered by federal law, the existing patchwork of federal genetic privacy protections do not clearly cover all forms of genetic testing, including DTC genetic tests.
Continue Reading Newly Effective Florida Law Imposing Criminal Sanctions Adds to Developing Nationwide Patchwork of State Genetic Privacy Laws

Last week, the Ninth Circuit held in United States v. Wilson, No. 18-50440, 2021 WL 4270847, that a law enforcement officer violated a criminal defendant’s Fourth Amendment rights when he opened images attached to the defendant’s emails without a warrant, even though the images had previously been flagged as child sexual abuse materials (“CSAM”) by Google’s automated CSAM-detection software.  The court based its ruling on the private search exception to the Fourth Amendment, which permits law enforcement to conduct a warrantless search only to the extent the search was previously conducted by a private party.  Because no individual at Google actually opened and viewed the images flagged as CSAM, the court held that law enforcement “exceeded the scope of the antecedent private search,” thereby “exceed[ing] the limits of the private search exception.”  Op. at 20-21.

Continue Reading Ninth Circuit’s Interpretation of Private Search Exception to the Fourth Amendment Contributes to “Growing Tension” Among Circuit Courts

On September 21, 2021, the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (“OFAC”) issued an “Updated Advisory on Potential Sanctions Risks for Facilitating Ransomware Payments” (the “Updated Advisory”).  The Updated Advisory updates and supersedes an earlier OFAC Advisory released on October 1, 2020, and is directed toward not only organizations victimized by ransomware attacks, but also financial institutions, cyber insurance firms, and forensic and incident-response firms that assist organizations victimized by ransomware attacks.

The Updated Advisory is largely consistent with the previous version released in October 2020, restating the U.S. government’s opposition to ransomware victims making payments to cyber threat actors and making clear OFAC’s commitment to bringing enforcement actions in connection with such payments when they constitute U.S. sanctions violations.  However, the Updated Advisory adds important new guidance on “the proactive steps companies can take to mitigate [sanctions enforcement] risks,” including implementing strong cybersecurity practices before an attack; and promptly reporting a ransomware attack to, and engaging in timely and ongoing cooperation with, law enforcement or other relevant agencies.  Taking these steps would constitute “mitigating factors” in any OFAC enforcement action resulting from sanctions violations in connection with ransomware payments.

In conjunction with the new Advisory, OFAC for the first time designated for sanctions a Russian cryptocurrency exchange, SUEX OTC, that OFAC alleges has been involved in facilitating numerous ransomware payments for malicious cyber actors.  As a result of this designation, U.S. persons (that is, all individual U.S. citizens and permanent residents, U.S.-incorporated entities and their branch offices, and anyone physically within the United States) are now prohibited from engaging in or facilitating virtually all transactions with or involving SUEX OTC.


Continue Reading OFAC Issues Updated Guidance on Ransomware Payments

On September 29, 2021, the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation held a hearing entitled “Protecting Consumer Privacy.”  The hearing centered on strengthening consumer privacy rights, including by increasing the FTC’s resources and creating a comprehensive federal privacy law.

To explore these issues, the Committee invited David Vladeck, Professor and Faculty Director of the Center on Privacy and Technology at Georgetown Law and former Director of the FTC Bureau of Consumer Protection; Morgan Reed, President of The App Association; Maureen Ohlhausen, Partner and Section Chair (Antitrust & Competition Law) at Baker Botts and former Acting Chairman of the FTC; and Ashkan Soltani, Independent Researcher and Technologist and former Chief Technologist of the FTC.
Continue Reading Consumer Privacy Hearing Focuses on Expanding FTC Resources, Creating Federal Privacy Law

In putative privacy class action Hodges v. Comcast Cable Communications, LLC, involving  Comcast’s privacy and data-collection practices, Comcast moved to compel arbitration based on its subscriber agreement.  The district court denied the motion based on California’s McGill rule, which may invalidate arbitration agreements that purport to waive the right to seek public injunctive relief in any forum.
Continue Reading Ninth Circuit Narrowly Defines “Public Injunctive Relief” in Privacy Case, Limiting Plaintiffs’ Ability to Circumvent Arbitration Agreements.

An Illinois state appellate court recently issued a ruling that could reduce defendants’ litigation exposure on certain types of Biometric Information Privacy Act (“BIPA”) claims.  On September 17, the panel clarified in Tims v. Black Horse Carriers, Inc., 2021 IL App (1st) 200563 (1st Dist. Sept. 17, 2021), that the statutes of limitation applicable to BIPA claims vary depending on the nature of the claim.  Claims for failing to provide a written retention policy, give notice, or obtain consent prior to collecting an individual’s biometric information may be brought within five years.  But claims for violating BIPA’s selling, disclosing, or disseminating information provisions must be brought within one year.

Continue Reading Illinois Court Splits Time on BIPA Statute of Limitations

On September 15, the Federal Trade Commission (“FTC”) adopted, on a 3-2 party-line vote, a policy statement that takes a broad view of which health apps and connected devices are subject to the FTC’s Health Breach Notification Rule (the “Rule”) and what triggers the Rule’s notification requirement.

The Rule was promulgated in 2009 under the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (“HITECH”) Act.  Under the Rule, vendors of personal health records that are not otherwise regulated under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (“HIPAA”) are required to notify individuals, the FTC, and, in some cases, the media following a breach involving unsecured identifiable health information.  Third-party service providers also are required to notify covered vendors of any breach.
Continue Reading FTC Adopts Policy Statement on Privacy Breaches by Health Apps and Connected Devices

To add to the growing number of bills that would amend or revoke Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, last month Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) introduced the Health Misinformation Act of 2021 (S.2448).  Senator Ben Lujan (D-NM) cosponsored the bill.

The bill would amend Section 230 to revoke the Act’s liability shield

Yesterday, Rep. Kathy Castor (D-FL) introduced an updated version of the “Protecting the Information of our Vulnerable Children and Youth Act” (Kids PRIVCY Act), which would make broad changes the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA).  Rep. Castor introduced a similar bill in early 2020, but it stalled alongside other proposals to overhaul the federal children’s privacy law last year.
Continue Reading Rep. Castor Reintroduces Bill to Rewrite the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act