Data Privacy Exposure Hits the Public Sector: Lessons from the OPM Data Breach Class Action, Whistleblower Actions, and the GAO Cybersecurity Report

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Data privacy litigation and enforcement actions continue to roil the private sector, most recently with the FTC’s announcement of a $425 million settlement with Equifax in the wake of the Equifax data breach. Less discussed is the fact that data privacy and security remains a real threat in the public sector. As we recently reported, the 2019 Verizon Data Breach Investigations Report found that 16% of confirmed data breaches were in the public sector. Three recent developments highlight the breadth and scope of the threat, reflecting that federal agencies and government contractors remain vulnerable to cyberattacks and may be subject to liability for cybersecurity failures.

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Texas Amends State Breach Notification Law and Creates Advisor Council to Study Privacy Laws

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Businesses in Texas that own or license computerized data will expect a shortened data breach notification deadline for any breach of sensitive personal information after January 1, 2020. Meanwhile, reporting to state attorney general (“AG”) will become mandatory if more than 250 Texans are involved in a single data breach.

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Oregon Amends Data Breach Notification Law to Apply to Vendors

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On May 24, 2019, Oregon Governor Kate Brown signed into law Senate Bill 684, which requires vendors, service providers and other entities that maintain or possess consumers’ personal information to notify consumers of a security breach.

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Supreme Court Gives Companies Another Tool To Fend Off Data Breach Class Actions

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In the wake of data breaches, companies may find themselves targets of class actions by customers or employees whose personal information was compromised in the breach. The exposure is considerable, with an estimated 765 million people impacted by data breaches between April and June of 2018. As we previously reported, some courts have allowed consumer and employee data breach cases to proceed despite threshold challenges – leading to multi-million-dollar settlements. And in Dittman, Pennsylvania’s Supreme Court recently held that an employer owed an affirmative duty to exercise reasonable care to protect employees’ personal nonpublic data from data breaches.

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Coming Soon to Singapore: Mandatory Data Breach Notifications

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Singapore’s Personal Data Protection Commission (PDPC) issued a statement on March 1 announcing its plan to introduce mandatory breach notifications as part of a set of proposed amendments to the country’s Personal Data Protection Act (PDPA). The proposed amendments come in response to the PDPC’s recent review of the PDPA in order “to ensure that it keeps pace with the evolving needs of businesses and individuals, and balances safeguarding individuals’ interests and enables the legitimate use of personal data by organisations.” The details of the mandatory breach notification have not yet been made public, but the amendment will likely require organizations to notify the PDPC and affected data subjects when a certain level of breach has occurred.

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$3 Million Settlement for Two Separate HIPAA Breaches Affecting Over 62,500 Individuals

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Cottage Health and the Office for Civil Rights at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS-OCR) recently entered into a $3 million no-fault settlement and three year corrective action plan to settle potential violations of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). This was HHS-OCR’s last HIPAA related settlement of 2018 – a record year in HIPAA enforcement activity, as detailed in this DBR on Data blog post.

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