On March 2, 2023, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) announced that it had reached a $7.8 million settlement with mental health and online counseling platform, BetterHelp, Inc. (“BetterHelp”). The FTC alleged that BetterHelp shared consumers’ sensitive health data combined with other personal information (PI) with third party advertising platforms without first obtaining affirmative consent and allegedly contrary to certain privacy representations. The proposed order requires the company to pay $7.8 million in partial refunds to BetterHelp customers. This is the first time that the FTC has required a company to return money to its customers whose personal information was shared without consent. Going forward BetterHelp is not permitted to share sensitive health information and PI without obtaining affirmative consent from the patients and customers. BetterHelp is also required to overhaul its privacy program and request that any outside parties that received the consumers’ sensitive data delete such information.
Reports of sophisticated cyberattacks and ransomware threats dominated 2021 headlines, along with evolving state data privacy laws in the absence of comprehensive federal data protection regulation. Cross-border data transfers between the EU and US still lack a clear, streamlined mechanism while national authorities continue to negotiate an EU-US Privacy Shield…
The FTC indicated that it will use its rulemaking authority under the FTC Act’s Section 18 to create a new rule that will likely seek to rein in broad data collection and use.
In October 2021, FTC Commissioner Rebecca Kelly Slaughter made two speeches in which she expressed a desire to move beyond the FTC’s “notice-and-consent” framework to address broader surveillance practices that underlie the digital advertising economy, specifically by applying “bright-line purpose and use restrictions that minimize the data that can be collected and how it can be deployed.”
With the spread of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19), cybersecurity criminals and scammers are ramping up their efforts to target vulnerable employers and workforces. The FTC announced today that since January they have received more than 7,800 fraud complaints from consumers related to the COVID-19 pandemic. But the FTC isn’t slowing down either. Even with the FTC having to change its own procedures due to COVID-19, the FTC has been publishing guidance on COVID-19 scams and also sending out warning letters to sellers of false treatments.
Whether it means taking a prominent role shaping data security for the Internet of Things, or addressing high profile breaches, the FTC has adopted an active position in policing data privacy and security. And, as data becomes increasingly digital in its form and protections, data security is of paramount importance for all types of intelligence—whether financial, medical, or otherwise sensitive. The Commission’s emphasis on these areas has not slowed, even as the composition of the Bureau of Consumer Protection changes under a new administration. The FTC’s actions over the past year reflect that Commission’s continued emphasis on data privacy and its recent data privacy settlements have provided companies with a trail of breadcrumbs from which they can extract lessons learned and help avoid potential FTC scrutiny.
The Consumer Review Fairness Act (CRFA) began to take effect yesterday, March 14, 2017. One aim of the CRFA is to protect consumers’ ability to publicly review services and vendors without being subject to restrictions or fines imposed by form contracts. It does so by voiding provisions within form contracts…
The Federal Communication Commission’s (the “FCC”) landmark decision last year to reclassify Internet service providers (“ISPs”) as common carriers under Title II of the Communications Act of 1934 implicates policy issues that extend well beyond net neutrality. Perhaps chief among them is the treatment of customer proprietary network information (“CPNI”) by broadband access providers. The CPNI rules, which were adopted as part of the Telecommunications Act of 1996, were originally implemented to facilitate competition in the context of a landline telephone network, rather than address privacy concerns for broadband providers. Yet as part of the FCC’s Open Internet Order (which is currently under legal challenge), these rules apply to broadband as well.
On January 27, 2015 the Federal Trade Commission (the “FTC”) issued a report detailing best practices and recommendations that businesses engaged in the Internet of Things (“IoT”) can follow to protect consumer privacy and security. The IoT refers to the connection of everyday objects to the Internet and the transmission of data between those devices. According to Gartner estimates the IoT services spending will reach $69.5 billion in 2015. The potential benefits of IoT growth include enhanced healthcare through connected medical devices, convenience and cost savings through home automation and improved safety and convenience through connected cars.