Department of Commerce

On October 23, 2019, the European Commission (“Commission”) published its Report on the third annual review of the EU-U.S. Privacy Shield (“Privacy Shield”) (the Report is accompanied by a Staff Working Document).  The Report “confirms that the U.S. continues to ensure an adequate level of protection for personal data transferred under the Privacy Shield” (see also the Commission’s Press Release).  The Report welcomed a number of improvements following the second annual review, including efforts made by U.S. authorities to monitor compliance with the framework, as well as key appointments that have been made in the last year.  The Commission in particular noted the appointment of Keith Krach to the position of Privacy Shield Ombudsperson on a permanent basis, filling a vacancy that had been noted in previous reviews.  The Report also provided a number of recommendations for further improvement and monitoring.

Recognizing that, in its third year, Privacy Shield has “moved from the inception phase to a more operational phase,” the Report placed particular emphasis on the effectiveness of the “tools, mechanisms and procedures in practice.”  Not only has the number of Privacy Shield certifications exceeded 5,000 companies — eclipsing in three years the number of companies that had registered to the Safe Harbor Framework in its nearly 15 years of existence — the Report also noted that “an increasing number of EU data subjects are making use of their rights under the Privacy Shield and that the relevant redress mechanisms function well.”

As with prior reviews, the Commission sought feedback from trade associations, NGOs, and certified companies, and  addressed the functioning of (i) the framework’s commercial aspects, and (ii) U.S. authorities’ access to personal data.


Continue Reading Privacy Shield Third Annual Review

On January 24, the European Data Protection Board (“EDPB”) adopted a report (“Report”) regarding the second annual review of the EU-U.S. Privacy Shield (“Privacy Shield”).  In a press release accompanying the Report, the EDPB welcomed efforts by EU and U.S. authorities to implement the Privacy Shield,  including in particular the recent appointment of a permanent Ombudsperson.  But the EDPB also noted that certain concerns remain with respect to the implementation of the Privacy Shield.

The EDPB, which is made up of representatives of various European data protection authorities, is established by the GDPR, and advises on the consistent application of data protection rules throughout the EU.  The Report is not binding on the EU or U.S. authorities directly; instead it will serve to guide regulators considering the implementation of the Privacy Shield.  The Report is also likely to influence the EU Commission’s assessment of the Privacy Shield, and to contribute to political pressure in the European Parliament to continue to reform the Shield.    
Continue Reading European Data Protection Board Releases Report on the Privacy Shield

Earlier this week, the European Commission (“Commission”) published its Report on the second annual review of the EU-U.S. Privacy Shield (“Privacy Shield”) (the Report is accompanied by a Staff Working Document).  The Report concludes that the Privacy Shield “continues to ensure an adequate level of protection” for personal data transferred from the EU to the United States.  The Commission also found that the implementation of a number of the recommendations following the first annual review last year improved several aspects of the Privacy Shield, but that certain recommendations still required implementation and/or monitoring.

In another Privacy Shield-related development this week, the International Trade Administration’s Privacy Shield Team announced new guidance on the applicability of the Privacy Shield to the United Kingdom following the UK’s pending withdrawal from the EU. 
Continue Reading Privacy Shield Updates: Second Annual Review and Brexit Guidance

On July 20, 2018, the U.S. Department of Commerce’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration (“NTIA”) published comments it received from a wide array of tech and telecom companies, trade groups, civil society, academia, and others regarding its “international Internet policy priorities for 2018 and beyond.”  NTIA’s Office of International Affairs (“OIA”) had requested comments and recommendations from interested stakeholders in four broad categories: (1) free flow of information and jurisdiction; (2) the multistakeholder approach to Internet governance; (3) privacy and security; and (4) emerging technologies and trends.  NTIA plans to harness the comments it received to help it identify “priority” issues, and to leverage its resources and expertise to effectively address stakeholders’ interests.  
Continue Reading NTIA’s International Internet Policy Priorities for 2018 and Beyond

On August 28, 2017, the U.S. Government Accountability Office (“GAO”) publicly released a report regarding consumer privacy issues associated with the rapidly increasing number of cars that are “connected”—i.e., capable of wirelessly monitoring, collecting, and transmitting information about their internal and external environments.  The report examines four key issues: (1) the types of data collected by connected cars and transmitted to selected automakers, and how such automakers use and share such data; (2) the extent to which selected automakers’ privacy policies are in line with established privacy best practices; (3) selected experts’ views on privacy issues related to connected cars; and (4) federal roles and efforts related to consumer privacy and connected cars.

Process

The GAO turned to a variety of resources to explore the four identified issues.  For starters, the GAO conducted a series of interviews with relevant industry associations, organizations that work with consumer privacy issues, and a sample of sixteen automakers (thirteen of which offered connected vehicles) based on their vehicle sales in the U.S.  In addition, the GAO analyzed selected automakers’ privacy policies and compared them to privacy frameworks developed by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (“OECD”) as well as the Federal Trade Commission (“FTC”), the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (“NHTSA”), and the National Institute of Standards and Technology (“NIST”).  Finally, the GAO consulted relevant sources (e.g., federal statutes, regulations, and reports) and interviewed agency officials, including those from the Department of Transportation (“DOT”), the FTC, and the Department of Commerce.
Continue Reading GAO Releases New Vehicle Data Privacy Report

The first annual review of the EU-U.S. Privacy Shield (“Privacy Shield”) is scheduled to occur in September 2017 in Washington, D.C.  The first review is particularly important for the nascent framework, as regulators in both the U.S. and the EU are expected to closely scrutinize the operation of the first year of the Privacy Shield, address concerns that have been raised, and seek to ensure that the Privacy Shield is well positioned to continue operating as a valid legal basis for transfers of personal data from the EU to the U.S.

Under the Privacy Shield, an “Annual Joint Review” is conducted by the U.S. Department of Commerce (“Commerce”) and the European Commission (“Commission”), with participation by the FTC, EU data protection authorities and representatives of the Article 29 Working Party, and “other departments and agencies involved in the implementation of the Privacy Shield,” including the U.S. Intelligence Community and the Privacy Shield Ombudsperson for matters pertaining to national security.  Regulators have also indicated that they plan to solicit and incorporate feedback and comments from other Privacy Shield stakeholders as part of the review process, including from self-certified companies and other interested organizations.

Although this is the first annual review, it is important to note that the Privacy Shield has already been the subject of intense public scrutiny.  The draft text of the framework was released in February, several months prior to the final release in July, and a number of stakeholders took the opportunity to comment on the text, leading to several revisions designed to improve and strengthen the Privacy Shield. 
Continue Reading First Annual Privacy Shield Review Will Comprehensively Assess the Framework

Nearly 2,000 organizations are now listed as self-certified to the EU-U.S. Privacy Shield on the Department of Commerce’s (“Commerce”) Privacy Shield website.  Given current developments on both sides of the Atlantic, there are likely to be significant Privacy Shield developments in the coming months.

EU Justice Commissioner Věra Jourová recently concluded her visit to the U.S. to meet with Trump Administration officials and others regarding the status of the Privacy Shield.  During her visit, Commissioner Jourová spoke about the importance of the Privacy Shield as a framework with “enormous potential to strengthen the transatlantic economy and reaffirm our shared values.”  She also met with Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross to discuss the Privacy Shield, and announced that the first annual joint review will occur in September, which she indicated would be “an important milestone where we need to check that everything is in place and working well.”
Continue Reading Privacy Shield Approaches 2,000 Participants; Review Scheduled for September

In an interview with Politico (link requires a subscription), EU Justice Commissioner Věra Jourová, one of the principal architects of the EU-U.S. Privacy Shield, indicated that she plans to visit the U.S. once the Trump Administration is in place to assess the state of the new administration’s commitment to the Privacy Shield.  In the interview, Jourová indicated that she would seek to ensure that the U.S. maintains a “culture of privacy” under the new administration, and that the U.S. government would continue to adhere to its commitments with regard to U.S. law enforcement and surveillance activities that were included within the Privacy Shield framework.

The Privacy Shield was based in part on a series of letters published by various Obama Administration officials relating to oversight and enforcement of the Privacy Shield Principles by the U.S. government.  These letters were included as annexes to the Commission Implementing Decision that forms the legal basis for the Privacy Shield in the EU, and are posted to the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Privacy Shield website.  They include a letter from the Department of State to Commissioner Jourová describing the new Privacy Shield Ombudsperson designated to field inquiries from the EU regarding U.S. signals intelligence practices, and letters from the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (Letter 1; Letter 2) and the Department of Justice describing safeguards and limitations applicable to U.S. national security authorities and law enforcement authorities, respectively.
Continue Reading EU Commissioner Plans to Assess U.S. Privacy Shield Commitments

Last week, the multistakeholder group convened by the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (“NTIA”) to create set of voluntary best practices for the commercial use of facial recognition technology finalized its guidelines.  While the three-page code of conduct was praised by industry groups, including the Software & Information Industry Association and Consumer Technology Association, many consumer groups, who withdrew from the process before the guidelines were finalized, criticized the final product as weak and flawed.

The guidelines are the result of a more than two-year process, first announced by the NTIA in December 2013.  They recommend commercial entities do the following:

  • Disclose their practices regarding collection, storage, and use of facial template data to consumers, including any sharing, retention, and de-identification policies;
  • Provide notice to consumers where facial recognition is used on a physical premises;
  • Consider privacy concerns when developing data management programs;
  • Protect facial recognition data by implementing a program that contains administrative, technical, and physical safeguards appropriate to the entity’s size, complexity, the nature of its activities, and the sensitivity of the data;
  • Take reasonable steps to maintain the integrity of the data collected; and,
  • Provide a means for consumers to contact the entity regarding its use of the data.


Continue Reading NTIA Multistakeholder Group Reaches Consensus on Best Practices for Commercial Use of Facial Recognition Technology

By Stephen Kiehl and Hannah Lepow

Over the last year, the National Telecommunications and Information Administration, an arm of the Department of Commerce, has convened a series of meetings regarding voluntary best practices for privacy, accountability and transparency in the use of drones (“UAS”) by commercial and private users.  A number of stakeholders have participated in these meetings, including representatives of insurance companies, technology companies, news organizations, drone manufacturers, and consumer and privacy groups.  This week the stakeholders reached consensus on a “Best Practices” draft document that contains voluntary privacy guidance, which the NTIA has posted on its website.

Importantly, the document recognizes that the benefits of UAS are substantial, and that UAS integration will have a significant positive economic impact in the United States.  The document also stresses that the best practices it outlines are voluntary and do not create a legal or regulatory standard, nor should they be used as a basis for any local, state or federal law or regulation.  The privacy guidance focuses on data collected by a UAS — and not on data collected by any other means.  And, as we discuss below, the best practices do not cover newsgathering activities.
Continue Reading NTIA Multistakeholder Group Reaches Consensus on Best Practices for Drone Privacy