The European Union (EU) may soon decide whether Japan will have “adequate” status for transfers of personal data from the EU. Reuters reported on December 15, 2017 that the European Union is aiming to finalize a data transfer agreement with Japan by early 2018.
Set to be implemented in May 2018, the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) will require that EU citizens’ personal data be transferred to only countries with an adequate data protection status, forbidding companies from storing EU citizens’ personal data in foreign countries deemed to have an “inadequate” level of privacy protection.
Under the EU’s privacy framework, the European Commission has the power to determine, based on Article 25(6) of Directive 94/46/EC, whether a foreign country has an “adequate” level of data protection under that country’s domestic laws or international commitments. If a foreign country is deemed adequate, personal data can flow from the 28 EU countries (and three EEA member countries of Norway, Liechtenstein, and Iceland) to the foreign country without further safeguards.
The commission has so far deemed only 12 countries – Andorra, Argentina, Canada, Switzerland, Faeroe Islands, Guernsey, Israel, Isle of Man, Jersey, New Zealand, the United States (under the EU-US Privacy Shield), and Uruguay – as providing adequate protection. The EU does not include the United States among its adequate protection countries. But Decision 2016/1250 on the adequacy of protection of the EU-US Privacy shield, commonly known as the EU-US Privacy Shield, was designed as a program whereby participating US companies or companies doing business in the US are deemed to have adequate protection.
An adequacy determination for Japan would be monumental for Japanese companies and companies doing business in Japan, with EU Justice Commissioner Vera Jourova recently stating that”[a]n adequacy decision would be great news for business as it would allow for the transfer of personal data from the EU to Japan without the need for extra authorisations.”
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.
This week the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) and Netcracker Technology Corporation (NTC) announced that they had settled charges that NTC had violated U.S. controls on foreign access to sensitive data. The settlement underscores many of the export control and related compliance risks surrounding the provision and use of cloud computing services and global networks. At the same time, the Enhanced Security Plan issued by NTC and DOJ as part of the settlement provides a helpful set of benchmarks and best practices for companies that may be considering the use of cloud services and network infrastructure to house and transmit their most sensitive data.
According to DOJ’s settlement announcement, NTC had worked as a subcontractor on two federal government contracts with the Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA), a combat support agency of the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD), and performed some product support work from locations outside the United States, including Russia. DOJ alleged that by failing to maintain adequate controls on the cloud and network infrastructure supporting these contracts, NTC had threatened the security of sensitive data about individuals, DoD projects, networks and critical U.S. domestic communications infrastructure. DOJ further asserted that uncleared NTC foreign national employees in Russia and Ukraine worked on the DISA projects and were aware of the sensitive nature of the projects and the data stored and transmitted through the network managed by DISA.
The National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC) adopted the Insurance Data Security Model Law (“Model Law”) in October 2017. The purpose of the Model Law is to establish standards for data security and the investigation of and notification to the Insurance Commissioner of a Cybersecurity Event, but is not intended to create a private right of action.
The Model Law is based largely on the New York Department of Financial Services’ Cybersecurity Regulations, 23 NYCRR 500 (“NYDFS Cyber Regulations”), which took effect on March 1, 2017.  In fact, a drafting note to the Model Law indicates that compliance with the NYDFS Cyber Regulations is intended to constitute compliance with the Model Law.
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.
Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey and Multi-State Billing Services (MSB), a Medicaid billing company that provided processing services for 13 public schools, signed a no-fault consent judgment settling a 2014 data breach resulting from a stolen laptop that put 2,618 children at risk for identity theft and fraud. The MSB laptop contained unencrypted personal information, including names, social security numbers, Medicaid identification numbers and birth dates.
The settlement requires MSB to pay $100,000 and implement improved security practices after an investigation by the attorney general’s office determined it violated state consumer protection and data security laws. More specifically, the judgment requires MSB to continue to develop, implement and maintain a written and comprehensive information security program and review and update its existing policies and procedures for compliance with data security laws. It must also train its staff on how to protect personal information and regularly report on its compliance with such requirements to the state attorney general’s office.