Security, Privacy and Information Governance

Category: FTC

FTC Settlement with PayPal Resolving Allegations That Venmo Made Misrepresentations to Consumers and Violated the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act


The FTC has entered into a Consent Agreement with PayPal, Inc., settling allegations that PayPal, through its operation of Venmo, had violated Section 5 of the FTC Act and the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act’s (“GLBA”) Privacy and Safeguards Rules.   PayPal operates Venmo, a payment and social networking application and website that allows consumers to make peer-to-peer payments, which also shares information regarding such payments through a social network feed.  The agreement will be subject to public comment for 30 days.

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Information Injury Workshop Covers Non-Financial Harms Faced By Consumers


The Federal Trade Commission held its Information Injury Workshop in December in Washington D.C. The goal of the workshop was to explore how to characterize and measure information injuries to consumers.

Information injury is the harm that a victim suffers as a result of privacy or data security breach. Financial, health and safety injury are the most common types of alleged injuries that the FTC has seen in privacy and data security in the past few years. Yet, injury that does not cause financial harm can be challenging to quantify.

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FTC Nominees Identify Agency’s Top Challenges in Web Questionnaires


The Senate Commerce, Science & Transportation Committee has set confirmation hearings for February 14 for President Donald Trump’s four nominees to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).

For the past year, there have been two commissioners leading the agency – Acting Chairman Maureen Ohlhausen and Commissioner Terrell McSweeny.

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Strava’s Heatmap & IoT Devices


Online fitness tracking app Strava recently published a “heatmap” of data showing the physical movement paths of Strava users around the globe.  The Strava app uses mobile phones’ GPS in conjunction with wearable fitness trackers, such as Fitbit, Garmin, and Xiaomi Mi, to track users’ physical activities, capture performance metrics like speed, pace, and distance, analyze users’ performance, and compare performance metrics with other users.  As useful as this information is to Strava users, it became widely known in late January 2018 that Strava’s heatmap, easily available to the public, shows the movement of soldiers and military personnel in different global locations.  This information can be used to identify, with explicit detail, the location and layout of foreign physical military installations in countries such as Syria and Afghanistan.

Strava’s heatmap, which was updated in November 2017, is a visualization of the company’s global network of athletes.  According to Strava, the heatmap is the “largest, richest, and most beautiful dataset of its kind,” and consists of the following data points:

  • 1 billion activities
  • 3 trillion latitude/longitude points
  • 13 trillion pixels rasterized
  • 10 terabytes of raw input data
  • A total distance of 27 billion km (17 billion miles)
  • A total recorded activity duration of 200 thousand years
  • 5% of all land on Earth covered by tiles

Strava notes that the platform has numerous privacy rules in place, including an enhanced privacy mode, the exclusion of some or all private activities, the cropping of activities to respect user defined privacy zones, and the option to opt-out of contributing data to the heatmap.

Strava’s heatmap highlights a variety of issues associated with the deployment of  Internet of Things (IoT) devices.  The IoT, a broad category of technology that is generally understood to include physical devices that can collect and share data and connect to the Internet, is quickly changing every aspect of our lives, from the way we work and how we purchase goods and services to how we exercise and how well we sleep.  How these devices connect with other devices as well as consumer expectations continue to evolve is this largely unregulated space.

The FTC’s 2012 report, “Protecting Consumer Privacy in an Era of Rapid Change,” provides further insight.

Connected Cars in 2018 – Ready for the Fast Lane?


One of the most frequent predictions for significant growth in 2018 is the development of the connected car ecosystem. During the second half of 2017, there were workshops, proposed legislation and other guidance from the Department of Transportation and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).

In June 2017, the FTC and the NHTSA hosted a workshop in Washington, D.C. to discuss the enormous amounts of data collected and used in the connected car ecosystem. The workshop included representatives from consumer groups, industry, government and academia, and explored the benefits and challenges in this fast-growing market. After reviewing the materials submitted in connection with the workshop, the FTC released its Key Takeaways earlier this month.

In addition, the U.S. House of Representatives passed H.R. 3388, the SELF DRIVE (Safely Ensuring Lives Future Development and Research in Vehicle Evolution) Act to encourage testing, development and deployment of highly automated vehicles. Finally, the U.S. Department of Transportation and the NHTSA released new federal guidance for automated vehicles titled Automated Driving Systems 2.0: A Vision for Safety.

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VTech Settlement Resolves COPPA Allegations in FTC’s First Connected Toy Case


The Federal Trade Commission announced a settlement with VTech Electronics Limited and its U.S. subsidiary in the FTC’s first case involving Internet-connected toys.

VTech had been charged with violating the FTC Act and the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) by collecting personal information from children without providing direct notice and obtaining their parent’s consent, as well as failing to properly secure the data it collected.  The settlement includes a payment of $650,000 in civil penalties, injunctive relief, and the establishment of a comprehensive security program.


VTech, a Hong Kong corporation, and VTech Electronics North America, advertise, market and distribute electronic learning products (ELPs).  The companies offer online games available through the ELPs and operate the Learning Lodge Navigator online service, a platform similar to an app store that allows customers to download child-directed apps, games, e-books and other online content.  As of November 2015, approximately 2.25 million parents had created accounts with Learning Lodge for nearly 3 million children, according to the FTC.

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