New Policy for Device Searches at Borders Issued by CBP

In early January 2018, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) announced an updated policy for searching electronic devices at U.S. borders. The new directive supersedes a previous directive that was released in August 2009.

Under the policy, CBP agents—with or without suspicion—may conduct a “basic search” of electronic devices encountered at the border, including smartphones and tablets, by examining such devices and analyzing information visible on them. In contrast, CBP agents need to have “reasonable suspicion” or a “national security concern” to carry out an “advanced search,” that is, any search in which an agent connects external equipment, through a wired or wireless connection, to an electronic device in order to review, copy, or analyze its contents.

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New SEC Cybersecurity Guidance Highlights Disclosure Controls

On February 21, 2018, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) released its latest Interpretive Guidance on Public Company Cybersecurity Disclosures. Although cybersecurity has been a focus of the SEC for many years, the release is the first formal guidance issued by the agency. Previously, the SEC’s Division of Corporation Finance issued informal staff guidance in 2011, which we discussed in a past WSGR Alert.

The SEC’s new guidance largely adopts the 2011 informal guidance, which focused on companies’ obligations to disclose material cybersecurity risks and costs, including in annual reports. The new guidance re-emphasizes the necessity of making material disclosures in 10-Ks and other appropriate forms, including in statements regarding companies’ business and operations, risk factors, legal proceedings, management’s discussion and analysis of financial condition and results of operations, financial statements, disclosure controls and procedures, and corporate governance.

The new guidance also highlights two specific issues raised by cybersecurity incidents: (1) whether companies have sufficient disclosure controls regarding cybersecurity risks and attacks; and (2) ensuring that directors and officers do not engage in trading between the time that cybersecurity incidents are discovered and before they are publicly disclosed to investors.

Click here to view our complete WSGR Alert discussing the new guidance.

Court of Justice Dismisses Privacy Class Action Against Facebook but Allows Max Schrems to Sue in Austria

In yet another round of Schrems versus Facebook, on January 25, 2018, the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) ruled that privacy activist Max Schrems is a consumer with regard to his Facebook profile despite his advocacy activities. Schrems may therefore benefit from the EU consumer forum rule, which allows him to bring a privacy action as an individual against Facebook Ireland (Facebook) in his home country, Austria. However, the court ruled that he may not do so on behalf of other consumers in a class action.

Click here to read our complete WSGR Alert discussing the CJEU ruling.

A Look Ahead at Privacy and Data Security in 2018

2018 promises to be an interesting year in the world of privacy and cybersecurity. In this article, we highlight a few of the most notable developments we expect this year, including major developments in Europe, changes and pending cases at the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), notable U.S. Supreme Court cases scheduled to be decided this year, and some areas of legislation that actually may become law in the U.S.

Big Changes Taking Effect in the European Union

One of the biggest areas where everyone in the privacy field will be looking in 2018 is the European Union (EU). On the legislative front, the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) will enter into force on May 25, 2018; the proposed e-Privacy Regulation is scheduled to be adopted this year; and the EU parliament will issue a report on the proposed Regulation on Non-Personal Data. Additionally, the Court of Justice of the EU (CJEU) will rule on several important data protection cases, including on third-party tracking, the right to be forgotten, and the possibility of class actions.

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Ninth Circuit Narrowly Defines “Personally Identifiable Information” Under the VPPA

On November 29, 2017, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit joined the Third Circuit in narrowly defining “personally identifiable information” under the Video Privacy Protection Act (VPPA), holding in Eichenberger v. ESPN that the disclosure of a unique device identifier does not violate the act.1

The VPPA was passed in 1988 in response to the Washington City Paper obtaining and publishing the video rental history of U.S. Supreme Court nominee Robert Bork.2 The act was intended “to preserve personal privacy with respect to the rental, purchase or delivery of video tapes or similar audio visual materials.”3 To that end, the VPPA creates a private cause of action against a “video tape service provider”4 who “knowingly discloses … personally identifiable information.”5 The statute defines “personally identifiable information,” as “information which identifies an individual as having requested or obtained specific video materials or services from a video tape service provider.” Violators can be subject to statutory damages, punitive damages, and other penalties.6

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FTC Carves New Path for Collecting Voice Recordings from Children Without Parental Consent

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has provided new guidance on how it will enforce the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) against companies collecting voice recordings from children, loosening the rules on how companies can collect and use voice data. Under the guidance, online services covered by COPPA can now collect voice recordings from children without obtaining verifiable parental consent so long as they collect and use the voice recording solely as a replacement for written words, such as to perform a search or fulfill a verbal instruction or request, and maintain the file for only the brief period of time necessary for that purpose. The FTC’s publication builds on previous FTC guidance making clear that COPPA applies to Internet of Things devices, including connected children’s toys. The publication marks the first time that the FTC has publicly signaled that it will refrain from bringing enforcement actions in circumstances where it believes COPPA has been violated.

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