The much-anticipated Ponemon Institute 2018 Cost of Data Breach Study: Global Overview is out and, not surprisingly, the cost of a data breach continues to rise.  In this country, the cost is up $8 per record, going from $225 per record last year to $233 per record this year.  A more alarming jump, however, is the cost of a data breach in the health care sector, which is up to $408 per record from $340 just one year ago.  In terms of controlling costs, the study provides solid evidence that swift response and incident response planning save money. Continue Reading Data Breach Costs Up; Planning and Swift Response Save Money

On July 5, 2018, the EU Parliament passed a non-binding resolution encouraging the European Commission to suspend the EU-US Privacy Shield Program unless the US is fully compliant by September 1, 2018.  The EU Parliament believes that the current Privacy Shield program does not provide an adequate level of protection required by European law.  This comes roughly two years after the European Commission deemed the EU-US Privacy Shield Framework adequate to enable data transfers under EU law.  But a lot has changed in two years.  Continue Reading EU Commission Recommends Suspension of Privacy Shield; Recent FTC Efforts May Be Too Little Too Late

You could almost hear the cheers of plaintiffs’ class action lawyers in California last night, as California’s governor signed the most sweeping privacy law this country has seen to date.  Notably, the law gives consumers the right to statutory damages in the event of a breach if the company holding the consumer’s information failed to implement reasonable security measures.  Those statutory damages are not less than $100 and not more than $750 “per consumer per incident or actual damages, whichever is greater.” Continue Reading California Gets Its Very Own GDPR with Statutory Damages

Today, in a 5-4 decision, the US Supreme Court ruled that the government’s acquisition of information regarding an individual’s location based on a cell phone record amounts to a Fourth Amendment search and generally requires a warrant.  In Carpenter v. United States, the government obtained nearly 13,000 location points on Carpenter’s movements over a 127-day period from Carpenter’s wireless carrier under the Stored Communications Act (SCA).  The standard for obtaining information under the SCA is much lower than the probable cause showing required for a warrant.  The government used these cell phone records to show that Carpenter’s phone was near four locations that had been robbed when those robberies occurred and obtained a conviction.  In reversing the decision of the Sixth Circuit and remanding the case, the Court held that individuals have a reasonable expectation of privacy in their physical movements.

Chief Justice Roberts delivered the 119-page opinion for the majority, joined by Justices Ginsburg, Breyer, Sotomayor and Kagan. Justices Kennedy, Alito, Thomas and Gorsuch each filed dissenting opinions.

HIPAA has teeth.  On June 1, 2018, an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) ruled that the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center violated HIPAA.  In doing so, the ALJ granted the Office of Civil Rights (OCR) summary judgment, requiring the hospital to fork up the $4,348,000 in civil monetary penalties imposed by OCR.  Continue Reading ALJ Judge Upholds OCR’s $4,348,000 Data Breach Penalty on Texas Hospital

In March of this year, we told you that the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals issued a decision in ACA Int’l. v. FCC, wherein the court set aside two FCC interpretations of the Telephone Consumer Protection Act, or TCPA. Specifically, the court ruled that the FCC’s interpretation as to what constitutes an autodialer under the TCPA was unreasonably expansive, and that the FCC’s treatment of reassigned numbers was also overly broad.

On May 22, the United States District Court for the Northern District of Georgia, Atlanta Division, issued a decision further restricting the scope of the TCPA. By way of reminder, the Congress passed the TCPA in 1991 in an effort to curb robo calls.  The case involved calls made by a debt collector to a former Comcast customer.  She sued, claiming that the calls were impermissible under the TCPA.  An essential aspect of the TCPA claim at issue was that the call must be made through the use of an “automatic telephone dialing system”, or ATDS, as defined in the statute. Continue Reading District Court Gives Narrow, Reasonable Scope to TCPA

This week, the Department of Health and Human Services Office for Civil Rights (OCR) issued guidance on the use of HIPAA-compliant authorizations for research based on a mandate in the Cures Act for such guidance.  The guidance addresses authorizations and expiration language for future research as well as revocation of the authorization.  A copy of the guidance can be obtained hereContinue Reading OCR Issues Guidance on the Use of HIPAA Authorizations for Research

On June 4, 2018, the Governor signed into law Public Act 18-90, An Act Concerning Security Freezes on Credit Reports, Identity Theft Prevention Services and Regulations of Credit Rating Agencies (the “Act”), likely in reaction to the Equifax breach among many others.  The title of the Act leaves little to the imagination as to its subject matter.

Continue Reading Connecticut Legislature Responds to Proliferation of Data Breaches

Today, the European General Data Protection Regulation (“GDPR”) takes effect. The GDPR is the most comprehensive and complex privacy regulation currently enacted. The GDPR can apply to a business or organization (including a non-profit organization) anywhere in the world and its potential financial impact is huge; fines can reach up to € 20 million Euros (over $23 million USD) or 4% of an entity’s total revenue, whichever is greater. Not surprisingly, the potential for this type of penalty has caused concern and chaos leading up to the May 25, 2018 effective date. In light of this significant international development, all organizations should consider the following: Continue Reading Three Important Considerations For All Businesses in Light of GDPR

Malware-infected servers of a Baltimore hospital system, LifeBridge, may have affected more than half a million patient records. LifeBridge reports in a statement on its website that it discovered malware on the servers that host electronic medical records as well as patient registration and billing systems.  The provider’s investigation determined that an unauthorized person accessed the server of its physician practice over a year and a half ago on September 27, 2016.  Accessed information may include patients’ names, addresses, dates of birth, diagnoses, medications, clinical and treatment information, insurance information, and social security numbers.  LifeBridge sent letters to potentially affected patients and is offering one year of credit monitoring to individuals whose social security numbers may have been accessed.

While it appears that LifeBridge reported the breach to the state AG, as of the date of this post, this breach is not listed on OCR’s list of breaches affecting 500 or more patients (lovingly referred to as the OCR “Wall of Shame”).