According to a press release issued by the European Commission today, the European Parliament and the Member States have agreed to adopt new rules that set the standard for protecting individuals who blow the whistle on breaches of EU law from dismissal, demotion, and other forms of retaliation. This reform, which was first proposed by the European Commission in April 2018, seeks to replace the patchwork of whistleblower protections that currently exist across the Member States with a uniform approach. If formally adopted by the Parliament and Council, the new rules would protect those who report violations of various areas of EU law, including data protection, and Member States could extend protection to other areas of the law as well. Employers would have an obligation to create safe reporting channels within the organization, and whistleblowers, while encouraged to report internally first, also would be protected when reporting to public authorities. Additionally, whistleblowers could safely report violations directly to the media if no action was taken, if a report to the authorities would be futile, or when the violation is an “imminent” or “manifest” danger to the public interest. Lastly, the new rules would require that national authorities inform citizens and train public authorities on various aspects of whistleblowing. We will continue to monitor this development.
With less than a month to go until the UK is due to leave the EU (at 11pm GMT/12pm CET on 29 March 2019), there is still much uncertainty as to whether, and if so how, the UK will exit the EU (commonly dubbed “Brexit”). In light of this uncertainty we outline what will happen, and what should be considered, depending on how things play out especially given the important votes due to take place within the UK Parliament this week.
California already has some of the strongest data privacy laws in the United States, but within the past week state legislators, with the backing of the California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, have proposed two new bills that would strengthen California’s data privacy laws even more. One bill (SB 561) would amend key sections of the California Consumer Privacy Act (the “CCPA”), which we have previously blogged about when it was first enacted and when it was subsequently amended, and the other bill (AB 1130) would expand the definition of “personal information” under California’s data breach notification law to include biometric information and government-issued ID numbers (e.g., passport numbers).
The French Supreme Court sanctions a company for having produced complete employee pay slips in a litigation.
It is not news that the rules of evidence and data privacy laws may be conflicting. A recent decision of the French Supreme Court illustrates this tension and highlights the need for litigators to take into account data privacy principles before producing evidence containing personal information. Continue Reading
Uncertainty regarding the compatibility of blockchain technology and the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) has often been highlighted as a potential obstacle to the development and widespread implementation of blockchain systems involving personal data.
To address tensions between blockchain technology and the GDPR, Commission Nationale de l’Informatique et des Libertés (CNIL), the French data protection regulator, published an initial report analyzing certain fundamental questions regarding the interaction between blockchain technology and the GDPR’s requirements (the “Report”). The Report was the first guidance issued by a European data protection regulator on this topic.
In September 2018, the Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC”) announced that broker-dealer and investment adviser Voya Financial Advisors Inc. (“VFA”) agreed to pay $1,000,000 to settle charges related to alleged failures in its cybersecurity policies and procedures relating to a data breach that compromised the personal information of 5,600 customers. The SEC charged VFA with violating Rule 30(a) of Regulation S-P (17 C.F.R. § 248.30(a)) (the “Safeguards Rule”) and Rule 201 of Regulation S-ID (17 C.F.R. § 248.201) (the “Identity Theft Red Flags Rule”). This charge against VFA is the first SEC enforcement action charging violations of the Identity Theft Red Flags Rule.
In 2016, cyber intruders impersonated VFA contractors by calling VFA’s support line and requesting the contractors’ passwords be reset. The intruders then used these passwords to gain access to the personal identifiable information (“PII”) of at least 5,600 VFA customers and subsequently created new online customer profiles and obtained unauthorized access to account documents for three customers. According to the SEC’s order, VFA’s failure to terminate the intruders’ access was a result of weaknesses in VFA’s cybersecurity procedures, some of which VFA knew of from prior similar fraudulent activity. The order also notes that VFA failed to apply its procedures to the systems used by independent contractors.
The SEC found that VFA willfully violated the Safeguards Rule, which requires broker-dealers and investment advisers to adopt written policies and procedures that are reasonably designed to safeguard customer records and information. During the relevant period, while VFA employees generally used IT equipment and IT systems provided by its parent company Voya, VFA contractors generally used their own IT equipment and operated over their own networks. VFA contractors accessed customer information through a proprietary web portal (“VPro”). The contractors could log in with a username and password to gain access to certain web applications that contained sensitive information relating to VFA customers. VFA outsourced most of its cybersecurity functions and some of its information technology functions to Voya, which was responsible for responding to contractors’ requests for assistance with respect to the web applications.
Over a dozen Voya policies and procedures relating to cybersecurity were supposed to govern the conduct of VFA, including:
- manual account lock-outs for a user suspected of being involved in a security incident from web applications containing critical data, including customer PII,
- a session timeout after fifteen minutes of user inactivity in web applications containing customer PII,
- a prohibition of concurrent web sessions by a single user in web applications containing customer PII,
- multi-factor authentication (“MFA”) for access to applications containing customer PII,
- annual and ad-hoc review of cybersecurity policies, and
- cybersecurity awareness training and updates for VFA employees and contractors.
The SEC found that these policies were not reasonably designed to apply to the systems that independent contractors used. Specifically, the SEC found that the following VFA policies and procedures were not reasonably designed to safeguard customer records and information: (1) resetting contractors’ passwords, (2) terminating web sessions in its proprietary gateway system for VFA contractors, (3) identifying higher-risk representatives and customer accounts for additional security measures, and (4) creation and alteration of customer profiles.
The SEC also found that VFA willfully violated the Identity Theft Red Flags Rule, which requires registered broker-dealers and investment advisers that offer or maintain covered accounts to develop and implement a written Identity Theft Prevention Program that is designed to detect, prevent, and mitigate identity theft in connection with the opening of a covered account or any existing covered account. Although VFA adopted a written Identity Theft Prevention Program in 2009, the SEC found that VFA violated the Identity Theft Red Flags Rule because it had not reviewed or updated the program in response to changes to risks to its customers and did not provide adequate training to its employees. Additionally, the program did not include reasonable policies and procedures to respond to identity theft red flags, including those detected by VFA during the 2016 breach.
As part of the settlement, VFA has agreed to retain, and cooperate fully with, a compliance consultant to review all of its policies and procedures for compliance with Regulation S-P and Regulation S-ID. The settlement also requires VFA to pay a civil penalty of $1,000,000 and cease and desist from violating Regulation S-P and Regulation S-ID.
 The password reset procedures for VPro allowed Voya staff to provide users who could not remember their passwords with a temporary password by phone as long as the user provided at least two pieces of PII. Temporary passwords were not required to be sent by secure email.
 VFA allowed contractors to maintain concurrent VPro sessions and did not apply 15-minute inactivity timeouts to VPro sessions. VFA also did not have a procedure for terminating an individual contractor’s remote session. Furthermore, resetting passwords did not terminate sessions, which meant that existing sessions continued after password resets.
 Voya kept a “monitoring list” of phone numbers associated with prior fraudulent activity at Voya, but there was no written policy or procedure requiring Voya to use this list when responding to requests for password resets or other calls from the phone numbers on this list. With respect to reviewing contractors’ computers for security deficiencies, some contractors delayed or did not complete such scans. Approximately 30% of scanned computers exhibited critical failures, such as lack of encryption and antivirus software.
 VFA did not notify customers when an initial profile was created and when contact information and document delivery preferences were changed for that customer. Thus, intruders could create and change customer profiles without being detected by customers, as was the case in the 2016 data breach.
The California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) is a major new state law poised to affect the privacy landscape not just in California, but in the U.S. as a whole. (For a detailed overview of the CCPA, read our previous post.) On August 31, the California legislature passed several amendments to the CCPA that will have a significant impact on its implementation. Continue Reading