The Third Circuit released its decision in FTC v. Wyndham Worldwide Corp. earlier today, affirming the district court’s decision that the FTC has the authority to regulate companies’ data security practices under the “unfair practices” prong of Section 5 of the FTC Act.  The highly anticipated precedential opinion dismissed Wyndham’s arguments that the FTC lacks the authority to regulate cybersecurity practices, finding instead that neither Congressional legislation nor the FTC’s prior statements contradicted the FTC’s attempts to assert its cybersecurity powers.  The court also held that Wyndham received fair notice of the potential application of the unfairness standard under Section 5 to data security practices, rejecting Wyndham’s argument that it should receive notice of which specific cybersecurity practices are required to satisfy the Section 5 standard.  Finally, the court held that the FTC sufficiently alleged a “substantial injury” to consumers, as required under Section 5’s unfairness prong.  An analysis of the highlights of the Third Circuit’s opinion is available after the jump.
Continue Reading Third Circuit Upholds FTC’s Data Security Authority in FTC v. Wyndham

On Friday, March 27, 2015, the Federal Trade Commission and Wyndham Worldwide Corp. filed supplemental briefing in the Third Circuit regarding whether the FTC had made an adjudicative decision that the FTC Act prohibits unreasonable cybersecurity practices and, if not, whether a federal court could hear a case charging a violation of the FTC Act

Today, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit heard oral arguments in FTC v. Wyndham Worldwide Corp. The court focused on several themes: First, whether Congress has entrusted the FTC to define new unfair practices, whether the FTC has declared that unreasonable cybersecurity practices are unfair, and whether the FTC is asking the Third Circuit to declare that unreasonable cybersecurity practices are unfair in the first instance; second, the existence and enforcement of cybersecurity standards; and finally, what is proper jurisdiction under FTC Act Section 13(b).

Eugene Assaf argued for Wyndham Worldwide Corp., and Joel Marcus argued for the FTC. The judges on the panel are Thomas L. Ambro, Jane R. Roth and Anthony J. Scirica.


Continue Reading Wyndham Oral Argument: Third Circuit Expresses Doubt About FTC’s Data Security Authority

On February 20, the Third Circuit sent a letter to counsel in FTC v. Wyndham Worldwide Corp., identifying at least one topic that will be addressed in the upcoming oral argument regarding the parties’ dispute over whether the FTC has the authority to regulate companies’ data security practices: whether unreasonable cybersecurity practices are “unfair.”

By Meena Harris and Caleb Skeath

  1. Data Breaches
  • Studies show increase.  Amidst a flurry of high-profile breaches during 2014, several studies confirmed that data breaches as a whole have risen significantly over the past few years.  The California Attorney General released a study showing a 28% increase in breaches in 2013 as compared to 2012.  Another study, which examined the volume of data breaches during the first quarter of 2014, found an increase of 233% compared to the same time period in 2013.
  • State laws.  In April, Kentucky became the 47th state to enact a data breach notification law.  Florida and Iowa each amended their data breach notification laws in 2014 to, among other changes, enhance regulator notification requirements.  California amended its data breach notice law to expand the types of information covered and to require certain companies to provide one year of free credit monitoring to affected individuals (although the statutory language on the latter point is subject to multiple interpretations).
  • Federal legislation.  Numerous data breach bills, including the Data Security Breach Notification Act of 2014 and the Personal Data Protection and Breach Accountability Act, were introduced in Congress, although none passed during 2014.  The Senate Judiciary Committee, the Senate Commerce Committee, and the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Commerce, Manufacturing, and Trade, among others, held hearings during 2014 to discuss the need to address data breaches and the possibility of enacting federal legislation.
  • Federal enforcement.  In the enforcement arena, the Federal Trade Commission (“FTC”), the Department of Health and Human Services (“HHS”), and state attorneys general pursued enforcement action during 2014 against companies that had suffered data breaches.  The Securities and Exchange Commission also announced in April that it would conduct over 50 cybersecurity examinations of publicly traded companies.  The Federal Communications Commission (“FCC”), for its part, levied a $10 million fine in October against two telecommunications carriers for exposing customer data, which represented the FCC’s first enforcement action in the wake of a data breach.
  • Continued attention in 2015.  Legislative interest in data breach issues has only increased in early 2015.  Since President Obama proposed national data breach legislation, additional data breach notification bills have been introduced in the House and Senate.  The House Subcommittee on Commerce, Manufacturing, and Trade also held a hearing on crafting a national data breach bill, debating the harm that should trigger notification obligations and the appropriate window for providing notifications.


Continue Reading Top 10 U.S. Privacy Developments of 2014

Earlier this week, U.S. District Court Judge Esther Salas directed the Federal Trade Commission (“FTC”) and Wyndham Hotels and Resorts to seek mediation to resolve their landmark dispute over whether the FTC has the authority to regulate companies’ data-security practices.  As we’ve previously reported, the FTC alleged that Wyndham violated Section 5 of the

Last week, a federal judge in the District of New Jersey denied Wyndham Hotels and Resorts’ motion to dismiss the FTC’s complaint alleging Wyndham violated the FTC Act by failing to provide reasonable security for its customers’ personal information.  This Covington E-Alert provides a detailed look at the parties’ arguments and the court’s holdings in

Earlier today, in a long-awaited decision, Judge Salas of the District of New Jersey denied Wyndham Hotels and Resorts’ motion to dismiss a Federal Trade Commission (“FTC”) lawsuit alleging Wyndham violated Section 5 of the FTC Act by failing to provide “reasonable” security for the personal information of its customers.  The case has been closely

Today, the Federal Trade Commission announced settlements with two mobile app makers that allegedly failed to provide reasonable security for the personal information collected in connection with their apps.  In complaints against Credit Karma, Inc. and Fandango LLC, the FTC alleged that both companies’ apps failed to validate SSL certificates, a security shortcoming that could have allowed an attacker to connect to the app—and collect unencrypted sensitive information—by presenting an invalid certificate.  (This type of attack is sometimes called a “man-in-the-middle attack.”)  Both respondents agreed to 20-year consent orders requiring, among other things, that they establish comprehensive information security programs. 

These cases are important for a number of reasons:  they reinforce past FTC guidance on the importance of performing security reviews and testing, overseeing service providers, and providing channels whereby security researchers can report vulnerabilities.  But what might be most notable is that in neither case does the FTC specifically allege that the respondent’s practices were “unfair” within the meaning of the Section 5 of the FTC Act.  Instead, both cases appear predicated upon the FTC’s authority to take actions against companies engaged in “deceptive” practices.


Continue Reading FTC Announces Settlements with Two Mobile App Providers