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Financial Services Law Insights and Observations

FTC addresses importance of effective incident response and breach disclosure

Privacy/Cyber Risk & Data Security Federal Issues FTC FTC Act Data Breach Consumer Protection

Privacy, Cyber Risk & Data Security

On May 20, the FTC’s Team CTO and the Division of Privacy and Identity Protection published a blog post, titled Security Beyond Prevention: The Importance of Effective Breach Disclosures. The blog noted that the FTC Act creates a de facto data breach notification requirement because failure to disclose can increase the likelihood that affected parties will suffer harm. The post outlines effective security breach detection and response programs, which can: (i) permit an organization time to take remedial actions to counter, prevent, or mitigate an attack; (ii) prevent and minimize consumer harm from breaches; (iii) provide valuable information to the prevention function of a security team; and (vi) remove an attacker and allow for post-breach remedial measures. According to the FTC, failure to maintain such practices could indicate a lack of competition in the marketplace. The post stated that “[r]egardless of whether a breach notification law applies, a breached entity that fails to disclose information to help parties mitigate reasonably foreseeable harm may violate Section 5 of the FTC Act.” Listing recent cyber-related FTC enforcement actions, the post explained that deceptive statements can limit consumers’ ability to mitigate foreseeable harms like identity theft, loss of sensitive data, or financial impacts. Looking at these cases together, the post further noted that “companies have legal obligations with respect to disclosing breaches, and that these disclosures should be accurate and timely.”