Financial Institutions

In December 2019, the People’s Bank of China (“PBOC”) issued the draft Measures for the Protection of Financial Consumers’ Rights and Interests for public comment (“draft Financial Consumer Measures”) (an official Chinese version is available here).  Although the draft Financial Consumer Measures focus more broadly on consumer rights in the financial sectors, they imposes upon financial institutions privacy and cybersecurity obligations that—in certain instances—extend beyond the requirements stipulated in China’s Cybersecurity Law (“CSL”).

Following up on the draft Financial Consumer Measures, PBOC issued the Personal Financial Information Protection Technical Specification (“Financial Information Specification”) on February 13, 2020 setting forth additional privacy and cybersecurity requirements applicable to the life cycle of personal financial information collected and processed by regulated financial entities and other entities that process personal financial information (“Financial Industry Entities”). While the Financial Information Specification follows the general personal information protection principles under the Cybersecurity Law (“CSL”) framework, some specific requirements are worth highlighting, as explained below.
Continue Reading China Releases Personal Financial Information Protection Technical Specification

On March 5, 2019 the Federal Trade Commission (“FTC”) published requests for comment on proposed amendments to two key rules under the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act (“GLBA”).  Most significantly, the FTC is proposing to add more detailed requirements to the Safeguards Rule, which governs the information security programs financial institutions must implement to protect customer data.

In addition, the FTC is proposing to expand the definition of “financial institution” under the Safeguards Rule and the Privacy Rule to include “finders.”  Finally, the FTC is proposing to amend the Privacy Rule to make technical and conforming changes resulting from legislative amendments to GLBA in the Dodd-Frank Act and FAST Act of 2015.

Proposed Revisions to the Safeguards Rule’s Information Security Program Requirements

The Safeguards Rule establishes requirements for the information security programs of all financial institutions subject to FTC jurisdiction.  The Rule, which first went into effect in 2003, requires financial institutions to develop, implement, and maintain a comprehensive information security program.  As currently drafted, the Safeguards Rule has few prescriptive requirements, but instead generally directs financial institutions to take reasonable steps to protect customer information.

The FTC’s proposed revisions would add substantially more detail to these requirements.  Andrew Smith, Director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection, explained that the purpose of the proposed changes is “to better protect consumers and provide more certainty for business.”  The new requirements are primarily based on the cybersecurity regulations issued by New York Department of Financial Services (“NYSDFS”), and the insurance data security model law issued by the National Association of Insurance Commissioners.
Continue Reading FTC Proposes to Add Detailed Cybersecurity Requirements to the GLBA Safeguards Rule

On November 6, 2018, the French data protection authority (the “CNIL”) published a report that discusses some of the questions raised by the use of blockchain technology and perceived tensions between it and foundational principles found in the General Data Protection Regulation (the “GDPR”).  As we noted in an earlier blog post on this topic, some pundits have claimed that certain features of blockchain technology, such as its reliance upon a de-centralised network and an immutable ledger, pose GDPR compliance challenges.  The CNIL has attempted to address some of these concerns, at least in a tentative manner, and further guidance from EU privacy regulators can be expected in due course.

De-centralised network

The CNIL acknowledges that EU data protection principles have been designed “in a world in which data management is centralised,” and where there is a clear controller of the data (“data controller”) and defined third parties who merely process the data (“data processors”).  Applying these concepts to a de-centralised network such as blockchain, where there are a multitude of actors, leads to a “more complex definition of their role.”  In brief, EU data privacy rules are the square peg to blockchain’s round hole.

Notwithstanding this, the CNIL considers that participants on a blockchain network, who have the ability to write on the chain and send data to be validated on the network, must be considered data controllers.  This is the case, for instance, where the participant is registering personal data on the blockchain and it is related to a professional or commercial activity.  By contrast, according to the CNIL, the miners, who validate the transactions on the blockchain network, can in certain cases be acting as data processors.  As a consequence, data processing agreements would need to be in place between the data controllers and the data processors on any blockchain network.

The CNIL further considers that where there are multiple participants who decide to carry out processing activities via a blockchain network, they will most likely be considered “joint controllers,” unless they identify and designate their roles and responsibilities in advance.   Individuals who use the blockchain for personal use (i.e., individuals who access the network to buy and sell a virtual currency), however, would not be data controllers as they can rely on the “purely personal or household activity” exception.  
Continue Reading The CNIL Publishes Report On Blockchain and the GDPR

On October 18, 2018, the Dutch Supervisory Authority for data protection adopted guidance on the second Payment Service Directive (“PSD2”).  The PSD2 intends to open the financial services market to a larger scale of innovative online services.  To that effect, the PSD2 sets out rules for obtaining access to the financial information of bank customers. 

Blockchain technology has the potential to revolutionise many industries; it has been said that “blockchain will do to the financial system what the internet did to media”.  Its most famous use is its role as the architecture of the cryptocurrency Bitcoin, however it has many other potential uses in the financial sector, for instance in trading, clearing and settlement, as well as various middle- and back-office functions.  Its transformative capability also extends far beyond the financial sector, including in smart contracts and the storage of health records to name just a few.

A blockchain is a shared immutable digital ledger that records transactions / documents / information in a block which is then added to a chain of other blocks on a de-centralised network.  Blockchain technology operates through a peer network, where transactions must be verified by participants before they can be added to the chain.

Notwithstanding its tremendous capabilities, in order for the technology to unfold its full potential there needs to be careful consideration as to how the technology can comply with new European privacy legislation, namely the General Data Protection Regulation (the “GDPR”) which came into force on 25 May 2018.  This article explores some of the possible or “perceived” challenges blockchain technology faces when it comes to compliance with the GDPR.
Continue Reading The GDPR and Blockchain

By Bruce Bennett, Carlo Kostka, Craig Pollack, Dan Cooper, Gemma Nash, Kristof Van Quathem, Mark Young, and Sophie Bertin

The EU Payment Services Directive (PSD2), which took effect on January 13, 2018, puts an obligation on banks to give Third Party Providers (TPPs) access to a customer’s payment account data, provided the customer expressly consents to such disclosure.  The new legislation is intended to improve competition and innovation in the EU market for payment services.  The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which is due to take effect from May 25, 2018, enhances individuals’ rights when it comes to protecting their personal data.  The interaction between PSD2, aimed at increasing the seamless sharing of data, and the GDPR, aimed at regulating such sharing, raises complicated compliance concerns.

For example, where banks refrain from providing TPPs access to customer payment data for fear of breaching the privacy rights of their customers under the GDPR, competition authorities may consider this a breach of competition law.  This concern is already becoming a reality for banks – on October 3, 2017, the European Commission carried out dawn raids on banking associations in Poland and the Netherlands following complaints from fintech rivals that the associations were not providing them with what they considered legitimate access to customer payment data.
Continue Reading Overlap Between the GDPR and PSD2

Earlier this month, the UK Government published a consultation on plans to implement the EU Directive on security of network and information systems (the “NIS Directive”, otherwise known as the Cybersecurity Directive).  The consultation includes a proposal to fine firms that fail to implement “appropriate and proportionate security measures” up to EUR 20 million or 4% of global turnover (whichever is greater).

We summarise the UK Government’s plans below, including which organisations may be in scope — for example, in the energy, transport and other sectors, as well as online marketplaces, online search engines, and cloud computing service providers — and the proposed security and incident reporting obligations.

Organisations that are interested in responding to the consultation have until September 30, 2017 to do so.  The UK Government will issue a formal response within 10 weeks of this closing date, and publish further security guidance later this year and next.  A further consultation on incident reporting for digital service providers will be run later this year; the Government invites organisations that are interested in taking part to provide appropriate contact details.
Continue Reading UK Government Proposes Cybersecurity Law with Serious Fines

On August 18, 2017, the Central Bank of Kenya (“CBK”) used its authority under Section 33(4) of the Banking Act to publish a Guidance Note on identifying and mitigating cyber risk.  The Guidance Note directs institutions licensed under the Banking Act (Cap. 488) (“Institutions”) to develop and implement a comprehensive set of program requirements to mitigate cybersecurity risk.

According to a 2016 report by Serianu, a Kenya-based IT services and business consulting firm, Kenya lost approximately $175 million to cybercrime in 2016.  The report identifies the introduction of e-services in both the private and public sector as a major factor behind the dramatic increase in new cyber weaknesses.  Other experts say the interconnectivity of the Kenyan economy and the automation of banking services have further exposed Kenya’s financial sector to risk.  In issuing the Guidance Note, the CBK also recognized the “interconnectedness” of financial Institutions and the need for a coordinated approach and information sharing to maintain “public trust and confidence in the financial system.”

As a result, CBK’s Guidance Note establishes minimum requirements that Institutions should adopt in order to develop effective cybersecurity policies and procedures, but recognizes that it is “not a replacement for and does not supersede the legislation, regulations and guidelines that institutions must comply with as part of their regulatory obligations.”  Among other things, the Guidance Note provides regulatory guidance for the following key areas:
Continue Reading Central Bank of Kenya Issues Guidance Note on Cybersecurity

As our readers know, New York’s Department of Financial Services (“NY DFS”) released a draft of its new Cybersecurity Regulations on September 13, 2016, and the final version of the regulations went into effect on March 1, 2017 (23 NYCRR 500).  Among other things, the regulations require regulated entities to conduct cyber risk assessments and to develop and implement cybersecurity programs to manage their cyber risk.

Notwithstanding the fanfare surrounding the announcement of these “first-in-the-nation” regulations, there has been significant uncertainty about precisely how the regulations will be interpreted and enforced.  That uncertainty has been increasing with the approach of the August 28 deadline for compliance with the first round of requirements (Section 500.22(a)).

On June 29, 2017, NY DFS took steps to reduce that uncertainty by posting a “Frequently Asked Questions” section about the regulations on its website.  The FAQs seek to clarify some key provisions of these regulations, including provisions regarding reporting requirements and consumer notification triggers.  Some highlights below:
Continue Reading New York DFS Publishes FAQs on New Cybersecurity Regulations

Based on reports citing New York Department of Financial Services (“DFS”) sources (see here and here), DFS may propose a revised version of its first-in-the-nation cybersecurity regulations on December 28, 2016.  That revision would be followed by a new 30-day comment period, with the revised regulations scheduled to take effect on March 1, 2017.