DBR ON DATA

Security, Privacy and Information Governance

Category: FTC



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Strava’s Heatmap & IoT Devices

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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?

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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

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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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