On August 21, 2019, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit held in FTC v. Credit Bureau Center, LLC, 2019 WL 3940917 (7th Cir. 2019) that the Federal Trade Commission (“FTC”) lacks authority to obtain monetary relief under Section 13(b) of the FTC Act. The FTC has relied on Section 13(b) to seek money relief in consumer protection enforcement actions, including privacy and cybersecurity matters, and had, prior to the Credit Bureau decision, suggested an intent to do so more frequently in the future. READ MORE
Amidst mounting pressure to pursue cybersecurity more aggressively, the Federal Trade Commission (“FTC”), the federal government’s most active enforcer in the space, has recently imposed increasingly stringent cybersecurity requirements in its consent orders. Given that FTC consent orders typically carry 20-year terms and a potential fine of $42,530 (which the FTC may contend applies to each consumer subject to a breach), it is vital for companies faced with an FTC cybersecurity investigation to take every possible step to narrow the scope of relief requested by the FTC. Several recent FTC cybersecurity settlements illustrate an emerging pattern: a company that litigates may secure a better deal than it would have received in an initial settlement, if not defeat the action entirely. But when considering whether to settle or litigate with the FTC, companies must still balance the various legal, business, and reputational risks at stake.
In an increasing trend, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) joined other federal regulators seeking to hold individuals – not just companies – liable in enforcement proceedings. The most recent target was San Francisco-based UrthBox, Inc. and its principal, Behnam Behrouzi. Specifically, Urthbox and Behrouzi agreed to settle FTC allegations that UrthBox engaged in unfair or deceptive acts or practices by: (1) failing to adequately disclose key terms of its “free trial” automatic renewal programs, and (2) misrepresenting that customer reviews were independent when, in fact, UrthBox provided customers with free products and other incentives to post positive reviews online.
In June 2018, medical laboratory LabMD obtained the first-ever court decision overturning a Federal Trade Commission (FTC) cybersecurity enforcement action. (The team directing that effort – led by Doug Meal and Michelle Visser – joined Orrick in January 2019). There, the Eleventh Circuit held that an FTC cease-and-desist order imposing injunctive relief requiring LabMD to implement “reasonable” data security was impermissibly vague. In the wake of LabMD, the FTC’s new Chairman, Joseph Simons, stated that he was “very nervous” that the agency lacked the remedial authority it needed to deter allegedly insufficient data security practices and that, among other things, the FTC was exploring whether it has additional untapped authority it could use in this space. In this regard, Chairman Simons and Commissioner Rebecca Kelly Slaughter announced that the FTC is examining whether it can “further maximize its enforcement reach, in all areas, through strategic use of additional remedies” such as “monetary relief.” READ MORE
Noting the “astounding” statistics on the use of smartphones and other mobile devices to “shop, bank, play, read, post, watch, date, record, and go” across consumer populations, the FTC has recently re-focused its attention on mobile security issues. As the amount of information collected on mobile devices, and through applications on those devices, continues to rise exponentially, unsurprisingly, mobile devices have become increasingly fertile grounds for cyberattacks. Against this backdrop, in February 2018 the FTC issued a 134-page report titled Mobile Security Updates: Understanding the Issues (the “Report”). Not long afterward, on April 2, 2018, the FTC appointed a new Acting General Counsel, Alden Abbot, who has substantial experience in the mobile-communication industry, including serving in key legal roles at Blackberry Corporation and the National Telecommunications and Information Administration in the Department of Commerce. Although the Report is narrowly focused on processes for patching vulnerabilities and software updates, the FTC notes that the Report is “part of an on-going dialogue” and that it intends to work with industry, consumer groups, and lawmakers to further the “goals of reasonable security and greater transparency” in its efforts to improve mobile-device security. READ MORE
This week, a high profile plaintiffs’ firm (Edelson) stated that “if done right,” the data breach class actions against Equifax should yield more than $1 billion in cash going directly to more than 143 million consumers (i.e., roughly $7 per person).
No defendant to date has paid anything close to $1 billion. In fact, the largest class settlements in breach cases hardly get close: Target Stores paid $10 million (cash reimbursement for actual losses) and The Home Depot paid $13 million (cash reimbursement for actual losses + credit monitoring). Will Equifax be different?
Part of the answer revolves around the increasingly debated role and importance of “consumer harm” in resolving data breach disputes. READ MORE
Last week, as part of its Fall Technology Series, the Federal Trade Commission (“FTC”) hosted a much-anticipated workshop to explore the privacy concerns associated with drones. Although many in the audience hoped that this workshop would provide some insight into the FTC’s perspective and position on regulation of drones and privacy, the workshop left attendees with more questions than answers. We were there, and provide you with some of the key takeaways.
What should companies do when ransomware hits? The FBI says: (a) report it to law enforcement and (b) do not pay the ransom. Given the recent onslaught in ransomware attacks—such as a 2016 variant that compromised an estimated 100,000 computers a day—companies should consider how their incident response plans account for decision-making in response to ransomware, and include this scenario in their next (or an interim) tabletop simulation.
FBI Public Service Announcement
In a September 15 announcement, the FBI urged companies to come forward and report ransomware attacks to law enforcement. The FBI acknowledged that companies may hesitate to contact law enforcement for a variety of reasons: uncertainly as to whether a specific attack warrants law enforcement attention, fear of adverse reputational impact or even embarrassment, or a belief that reporting is unnecessary where a ransom has been paid or data back-ups have restored services.
Notwithstanding these dynamics, the FBI is calling on companies to help in the fight: “Victim reporting provides law enforcement with a greater understanding of the threat, provides justification for ransomware investigations, and contributes relevant information to ongoing ransomware cases.”
The FBI also offered some best practices that companies should consider incorporating into their cybersecurity program and/or their disaster recovery and business continuity plans. These recommendations include: regular backups that are verified, securing backups, implementation of anti-virus and anti-malware solutions, increased employee awareness training, institution of principle of least privilege policies, and more. READ MORE
Last week, fashion retailer Lord & Taylor reached a settlement with the FTC over its allegedly deceptive advertising campaign, the first such action since the FTC released its Enforcement Policy Statement on Deceptively Formatted Advertisements and its companion guidance, Native Advertising: A Guide for Businesses, in December 2015. Native Advertising is clearly on the FTC’s 2016 enforcement agenda.
In a much anticipated move, on March 2, 2016, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) entered the cybersecurity foray with its first enforcement action against Dwolla, Inc., an online payment processing start-up. Pursuant to its authority under Sections 1031(a) and 1036(a)(1) of the Consumer Financial Protection Act of 2010, the CFPB fined Dwolla $100,000 and secured a five-year consent order imposing strict requirements on management and the Board of Directors. This CFPB enforcement action offers important insights into the contours of “reasonable cybersecurity” for certain financial services entities, and important lessons for conducting cybersecurity risk assessments. These issues dovetail with significant activity we recently reported on in the cybersecurity arena by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA), the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), the Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Civil Rights (HHS-OCR), and a host of other state and federal regulators.