What’s new in information safety? A authorized replace

We’ve got all clicked buttons on webpages and apps agreeing to or opting out of sure makes use of of our private information. However what are the authorized rules which can be driving the businesses working these platforms to create these buttons, replace their privateness insurance policies or in any other case interact customers about using information?

On-line customers rising count on corporations to be considerate about their use of knowledge, and the Federal Commerce Fee (FTC), amongst different regulators, has elevated regulatory scrutiny of smaller corporations. And since 2014, the FTC’s information safety program has acquired extra assets, resulting in the imposition of extra fines.

The underside line is that if your organization is amassing private information by means of a web site, app or platform, you’ll need to have an internet privateness coverage that complies with evolving legal guidelines governing information safety. With that in thoughts, we interviewed information safety specialists Phil Yannella and Gregory Szewczyk to dive into what rising corporations ought to think about in the case of information safety. That is what they needed to say:

If my enterprise is on-line, is it topic to all 50 states’ privateness legal guidelines and laws?

Typically, no. Most legal guidelines fall into three totally different classes: breach response legal guidelines, which govern what it’s worthwhile to do if private info has been compromised; information safety legal guidelines, which govern what protections it’s worthwhile to have in place for private info; and privateness legal guidelines, which govern how you employ private info and what disclosures or consents it’s a must to present. The primary two varieties of legal guidelines sometimes relate to extra delicate varieties of private info, however the third often applies to any info that’s able to being linked to a person. The applicability of those legal guidelines is usually triggered based mostly on the place the people whose info you might be amassing reside, however there can also be different applicability thresholds.

All states have breach responses legal guidelines, and about half have information safety legal guidelines. These legal guidelines shouldn’t have quantity thresholds, so if an organization collects any coated information, it will likely be topic to that regulation no matter whether or not it has any bodily presence within the state.

So far, solely 5 states — California, Colorado, Connecticut, Utah and Virginia — have handed complete privateness legal guidelines, which regulate how corporations gather and use private information. These legal guidelines, nevertheless, solely apply to corporations that meet sure thresholds referring to how a lot private information is collected and/or gross annual income. In different phrases, most younger startups is not going to be topic to those legal guidelines if they do not meet these thresholds.

However there are dozens of payments launched all through the nation for brand new privateness legal guidelines. So except the federal authorities passes a regulation with preemptory impact, the patchwork is more likely to broaden. Sadly, that signifies that startups ought to assess their compliance necessities based mostly on their particular operations and processing and needs to be occupied with not solely the place they’re right now however when their companies may attain these thresholds and be prepared when the time comes.

What are the subsequent “sizzling” enforcement areas that younger corporations ought to begin getting ready for?

Whereas there are numerous areas ripe for enforcement, the three that we would spotlight at this level are biometrics, web-scraping and regulation of crypto.

Everybody has 1,000,000 passwords as of late, so customers rising want biometric recognition software program as a simple strategy to log in to apps or web sites. Biometrics contains fingerprints, voiceprints, and facial and retinal measurements. However new biometric identifier legal guidelines put builders in danger. These legal guidelines require corporations to acquire prior written consent earlier than amassing biometric information that can be utilized to establish a person, in addition to publicly submit sure points of their retention insurance policies.

In 2008, Illinois grew to become the primary state to enact a biometric information privateness regulation (BIPA). Though it has been on the books for some time, this regulation has gained traction solely inside the previous few years. In 2018, a case known as Rosenbach v. Six Flags Leisure Corp. broadened the impression of that regulation by making it clear {that a} consumer doesn’t have to endure an precise damage to have the correct to sue an organization for breaching the Illinois BIPA regulation. Which means the consumer might make a declare solely by advantage of the truth that an organization collected the knowledge with out the consumer’s consent — even when there was no impression to the consumer from that information assortment.

Whereas most biometric privateness legal guidelines haven’t been enacted (or have severe repercussions for corporations), new corporations have to maintain an eye fixed out for this evolving space of ​​the regulation.

The uptake from that has been a flood of lawsuits with big dollars at stake. For example, in 2019, Facebook settled a BIPA class action lawsuit called Patel v. Facebook, Inc. for $650 million to resolve claims that Facebook collected user biometric data without consent.

Currently, only Illinois, Texas and Washington have enacted biometric laws, and only Illinois allows its citizens to sue noncompliant companies. But in 2022, seven states — California, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Missouri and New York — have all introduced biometrics laws generally based on BIPA. There is even potential for a national biometric privacy law. Senators Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) and Bernie Sanders (D-Vt.) introduced the National Biometric Information Privacy Act of 2020, but as of this post’s publish, it has yet to be enacted.

While most biometric privacy laws have not been enacted (or have serious repercussions for companies), new companies need to keep an eye out for this evolving area of ​​the law, which could result in exposure for young companies. Even if a young company is not sued in connection with a biometric law, the company may still need to consider these laws for purposes of making itself attractive to investors or potential buyers. Compliance with biometric laws may be an area that investors increasing diligence (both to ensure compliance with the law and to ensure that their portfolio companies are respecting user privacy as a matter of reputation).

Startups and young companies often develop business models focused on optimizing consumer interactions with Amazon, Facebook, and other major platforms. These startups use application programming interfaces (APIs) or web-scraping technologies that have been the source of significant litigation. Web-scraping involves the mass collection of data from publicly accessible sources. While the law on web-scraping is still somewhat murky, egregious cases of web-scraping will spark privacy and security concerns and could lead to potential litigation.

The crypto space also sees potential for increased litigation. Numerous crypto thefts have led to litigation, as well as the likelihood of federal regulation — including know your customer (KYC) rules for crypto exchanges. Crypto start-ups should be aware of the changing KYC requirements to maintain compliance as regulators are going to clamp down on anonymous crypto transactions.

What language should companies watch out for in data processing agreements that vendors or enterprise customers send?

Startups should be wary of significant data security requirement “traps” that companies will often add in data processing agreements that go beyond what is required by the law and increase legal risk. These additional requirements are often not reasonable in light of the contractual processing activities. For example, enterprise clients may impose unrealistic timelines for reporting security incidents to the client — often 24 or 36 hours. Unless there is a regulatory reporting need for such a quick turnaround, and the clause is limited to breaches that are confirmed or reasonably suspected to involve client data, startups should push for more workable reporting times. Likewise, startups should be wary of onerous indemnification requirements, particularly in connection with data breaches that go well beyond the value of the underlying contract. In this regard, it can be very helpful to have these agreements reviewed by a knowledgeable attorney to help circumvent these “traps.”

If a startup is using a service provider, the startup may want to insist that the service provider provides a list of sub-processors or gets permission in order to use a sub-processor that will handle personal data on behalf of the processor/startup. Often, the service provider will not pass along the same contractual security requirements to the sub-processors without specific instruction to do so. Also, startups should be on the lookout for language allowing the service provider to move personal data outside the United States, potentially triggering foreign data privacy laws.


Kim’s Corner is a collection of articles by Ballard Spahr’s rising corporations and enterprise capital attorneys. The column isn’t authorized recommendation. The substance of the column is derived from our expertise working with founders and particulars most of the present essential points going through startups.

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