In March, the Supreme Court issued its decision in Federal Bureau of Investigation v. Fazaga, No. 20-828, holding that the state secrets privilege—and its dismissal remedy—applies to cases that may also be subject to the judicial review procedures set forth in the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (“FISA”).  In so holding, the Court reversed the Ninth Circuit’s 2020 ruling that FISA displaces the state secrets privilege in cases involving electronic surveillance.

Continue Reading Supreme Court Holds FISA Does Not Displace the State Secrets Privilege

Last Thursday, the Eastern District of Virginia in United States v. Chatrie, No. 19-cr-00130, 2022 WL 628905, denied a motion to suppress evidence obtained from Google pursuant to a geofence search warrant.  Geofence warrants are a relatively new investigative tool that target private companies’ databases of location data, compelling these companies to produce the location data of every user that was in a particular area over a particular span of time.  The court invalidated the warrant for lack of particularized probable cause, but declined to suppress the evidence obtained from Google—which linked the defendant to the scene of a 2019 bank robbery—because the officers sought the warrant in good faith.
Continue Reading Federal Court Expresses Skepticism About Validity of Geofence Warrants But Declines Suppression Remedy

An Illinois federal district court recently rejected dismissal of Illinois Biometric Information Privacy Act (“BIPA”) claims in In re Clearview AI, Inc., Consumer Privacy Litigation, No. 21-cv-135 (N.D. Ill.).  The Clearview plaintiffs alleged that Clearview violated their privacy rights without their knowledge and consent by scraping more than three billion photographs of facial images from the internet and using artificial intelligence algorithms on the images to harvest individuals’ unique facial biometric identifiers and corresponding biometric information.  Clearview sought dismissal of the BIPA claims under the First Amendment, extraterritoriality doctrine, dormant commerce clause, and BIPA’s express exemption for  photographs.  The court rejected these grounds, and declined to dismiss the BIPA claims.
Continue Reading Court Rejects Dismissal of Illinois Biometric Information Privacy Act Against Clearview AI in Pending Multidistrict Litigation

2021 was another busy year for data privacy regulatory enforcement and litigation. With some distance to reflect on last year, we have prepared this post identifying and describing important trends from 2021 that can help provide insight into what to expect in the data privacy landscape in 2022.

Data Privacy Regulatory Enforcement Trends

Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and state enforcement action in 2021 centered on several key areas, including protecting children.

An FTC enforcement action last year alleged that the maker of an online coloring book application violated the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) by collecting personal information about children who used the app without notifying their parents and obtaining their consent.  The allegations note that the app included a “Kids” category that was targeted to children.  The FTC further claimed that the app’s social media features collected personal information from users and that some parents, lacking knowledge of these features, may have inadvertently permitted their young children to use the app.
Continue Reading 2021 Trends in Privacy Regulatory Enforcement and Litigation

On Thursday, the Illinois Supreme Court unanimously ruled in McDonald v. Symphony Bronzeville Park LLC that the exclusivity provisions of the state’s workers’ compensation statute do not preclude liquidated damages claims under the Biometric Information Privacy Act.  The decision narrows the defenses available to employers facing employment-related BIPA claims.

Illinois’s Workers’ Compensation Act generally provides the exclusive means by which an employee can recover against an employer for a work-related injury and requires such claims to be adjudicated before the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission, subject to several exceptions.  One of those exceptions is for injuries that are not compensable under the Workers’ Compensation Act.  At issue in McDonald was whether an alleged employment-based BIPA violation—here, the alleged use of a fingerprint-based timekeeping system without the required disclosures or consent—was the type of injury covered by the Workers’ Compensation Act.
Continue Reading Illinois Supreme Court Rules Workers’ Compensation Act Does Not Bar BIPA Liquidated Damages Claims

Last week, in a decision that confirms the viability of cy pres settlements in privacy class action cases, the Ninth Circuit affirmed approval of a class action injunctive relief and cy pres-only settlement in In re Google Inc. Street View Electronic Communications Litigation, No. 20-15616, 2021 WL 6111383.  The case featured Wiretap Act claims based on Google Street View vehicles’ collection of “payload data,” including emails, passwords, and documents that Internet users transmitted over unencrypted Wi-Fi networks.
Continue Reading Ninth Circuit Affirms Approval of Injunctive Relief and Cy Pres Settlement of Google Street View Privacy Claims

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

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.

Yesterday the Supreme Court issued a decision in Van Buren v. United States, No. 19-783, ruling that a police officer did not violate the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (“CFAA”) when he obtained information from a law enforcement database that he was permitted to access, but did so for an improper purpose.  In so ruling, the Court adopted a relatively narrow reading of the CFAA, and partially resolved a years-long debate concerning the scope of liability under the CFAA.

The CFAA prohibits, inter alia, “intentionally access[ing] a computer without authorization or exceed[ing] authorized access, and thereby obtain[ing] information from any protected computer.”  18 U.S.C. § 1030(a)(2).  What it means to “exceed authorized access” has been the subject of disagreement among lower courts:  Some have concluded that this term refers to accessing areas of a computer that the user is not permitted to access under any circumstances—e.g., a student accessing her university’s database of grades that is restricted to only administrator use.  Others have concluded that this term also encompasses individuals who are permitted to access an area of a computer for certain purposes, but they do so for an improper purpose—e.g., an administrator accessing the university’s database of grades that she is generally permitted to use, but she does so for the improper purpose of blackmailing a student.
Continue Reading Supreme Court Adopts Narrow Reading of the CFAA in Van Buren v. United States