DBR ON DATA

Security, Privacy and Information Governance

Category: FTC



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

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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.

Background

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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Article 29 Working Party Releases Guideline WP260 on Transparency under the GDPR

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The Article 29 Working Party (WP29) released two guideline documents, WP259 and WP260, on the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) concepts of consent and transparency.  Comments on both documents will be accepted by the Working Party through January 23, 2018 after which the WP 29 working party will issue final guidance. WP29 is an independent European advisory body on data protection and privacy.

This blog post focuses on WP260, the guideline on transparency. Our companion post on WP259, the guideline on consent can be read here.

Transparency has long been a fundamental feature of EU privacy law and is an overarching obligation under the GDPR. The draft guideline notes that a central consideration of the principle of transparency is that the data subject should be able to determine in advance what the scope and consequences of the processing entails. Transparency applies in three central areas:

  • The provision of information to data subjects related to the fair processing of their personal data.
  • How data controllers communicate with data subjects in relation to their rights under the GDPR.
  • How data controllers facilitate the exercise by data subjects of their rights.

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Article 29 Working Party Releases Guideline WP259 on Consent under the GDPR

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The Article 29 Working Party (WP29) released two guideline documents, WP259 and WP260, on the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) concepts of consent and transparency in November.  Comments on both documents will be accepted by the Working Party through January 23, 2018 after which the WP29 will issue final guidance.   WP29 is an independent European advisory body on data protection and privacy.

This blog post focuses on WP259, which is the guideline on consent. We have also written a companion blog on WP260, the guideline on transparency.

Guideline on Consent

The guideline provides a thorough analysis of the notion of consent, which is one of the six lawful bases to process personal data under the GDPR. Article 4(11) stipulates that consent of the data subject must be:

  • Freely given.
  • Specific.
  • Informed.
  • Unambiguous indication of the data subject’s wishes by which he or she, by a statement or by a clear affirmative action, signifies agreement to the processing of personal data relating to him or her.

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First Annual Joint Review of EU – U.S. Privacy Shield Addresses Six Areas of Concern

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In relation to the first annual Joint Review of the EU-U.S. Privacy Shield Framework, the Article 29 Data Protection Working Party (WP29), an independent European advisory body on data protection and privacy, issued its findings on November 28, 2017.

The EU-U.S. Privacy Shield Framework provides a method for companies to transfer personal data to the U.S. from the EU in a way that is consistent with EU Law.  As we discussed in a previous blog post, the framework is based on a certification system whereby U.S. companies commit to adhere to a set of Privacy Shield Principles. Other mechanisms for transferring personal data to the U.S. from the EU are through binding corporate rules, model contracts, or use of one of a number of derogations to the EU’s restrictions on cross-border data transfers.

The report reflects the Working Party’s views in relation to the first annual joint review of the Privacy Shield program. It acknowledges both the progress and the efforts to implement Privacy Shield, but it raises a number of concerns and calls on the European Commission and U.S. authorities to restart discussions to address those concerns by May 25, 2018, which is the date the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) takes effect.

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Protecting Students’ Online Privacy: An FTC & ED Joint Workshop on EdTech

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On Friday, December 1, the Federal Trade Commission and the Department of Education hosted a workshop examining student privacy in the burgeoning field of “EdTech.” Both agencies regulate certain educational technology aimed at K-12 students. However, FTC rules implementing the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (“COPPA”) are not identical to ED regulations implementing the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (“FERPA”). To better understand how both rules interact in practice, the agencies solicited public comment and convened panels of experts and stakeholders – including vendors, schools, parents, and regulators.

The workshop explored several key issues, including when a school may provide consent on behalf of participating students; how record retention (and deletion) should be noticed and executed; and what limits to impose on vendors collecting personal student information. In closing, both agencies expressed a desire to provide clear, workable regulatory oversight while meaningfully protecting student privacy.

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Smartwatch News: Privacy Edition

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As smartwatches gain in popularity, innovative uses for the wearable technology, along with privacy concerns, continue to pop up. In this roundup, we look at a new app that can help in atrial fibrillation studies and privacy concerns regarding smartwatches for children.

New app identifies irregular heartbeats for medical study

Apple recently launched the Apple Heart Study App, described as a “first-of-its-kind research study using Apple Watch’s heart rate sensor to collect data on irregular heart rhythms and notify users who may be experiencing atrial fibrillation.” Atrial fibrillation is a leading cause of stroke and other heart conditions.

Apple Watch users will be able to enroll in a joint study with Stanford University School of Medicine, which will use the device’s heart rate monitor to check for an irregular heart rate.  If an irregular heart rhythm is identified, the participant will receive a notification on his Apple Watch and iPhone, a free consultation with a study doctor, and an electrocardiogram patch for additional monitoring. This is the first study that Apple itself is sponsoring. Apple will run the study and submit data to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for approval as a regulated software.

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