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  • Nebraska enacts a comprehensive data privacy law

    State Issues

    On April 17 Nebraska enacted LB 1074 (the “Act”), establishing a comprehensive consumer data privacy law. The Act applies to a person that is not a small business (as determined under the federal Small Business Act) who conducts business in Nebraska or produces a product or service used by Nebraska consumers and who processes or sells personal data. The Act includes exemptions for certain classes of data, including data subject to the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act, as well as for certain entities including state agencies, financial institutions and their affiliates, nonprofits, higher education institutions, and covered entities or business associates governed by the privacy, security, and breach notification rules issued by the Department of Health and Human Services.

    The Act grants consumers the right to (i) request information about whether their data is being processed; (ii) access their data; (iii) correct inaccuracies; (iv) delete their data; (v) obtain a portable copy of their data; and (vi) opt out of certain uses of their data, such as targeted advertising, sale, or “profiling in furtherance of a decision that produces a legal or similarly significant effect concerning the consumer.” Controllers, defined as persons that determine the purpose and means of processing personal data, must respond to authenticated consumer requests within 45 days and may extend the period once by another 45 days if necessary. If a request is denied, consumers must be informed of the reasons and instructed on how to appeal to the Attorney General. Controllers must offer a free response to two requests per year from each consumer but may charge a fee or refuse to act if requests are unfounded or excessive. Controllers also must establish an appeals process for consumers whose requests are denied, and inform the consumer of the outcome of their appeal within 60 days.

    Rights afforded to consumers under the Act cannot be waived or limited by contract or agreement. Further, under the Act, controllers must provide consumers with a clear privacy notice including information similar to that required under the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act.

    The Act is effective on January 1, 2025, and enforceable by the Attorney General and does not provide a private right of action.

    State Issues Privacy, Cyber Risk & Data Security Nebraska State Legislation Gramm-Leach-Bliley

  • Kentucky enacts a comprehensive data privacy law for controllers

    Privacy, Cyber Risk & Data Security

    On April 4, Kentucky enacted HB 15 (the “Act”) which will apply to persons who conduct business that produces products or services that are targeted towards Kentucky residents. The Act will also apply to companies handling personal data of at least (i) 100,000 consumers, or (ii) 25,000 consumers and derive over 50 percent gross revenue from the sale of personal data. The Act does not apply to various entities, including: (i) city or state agencies, or political subdivisions of the state; (ii) financial institutions and their affiliates, as well as data subject to the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act; (iii) covered entities or businesses governed by HIPAA regulations; and (iv) nonprofit organizations. Enforcement of the Act will be through Kentucky’s Attorney General.

    The Act will impose several requirements on controllers, including: (i) limiting collection of personal data to what is relevant and necessary for the disclosed purposes; (ii) implementing reasonable administrative, technical, and physical data security measures to safeguard the confidentiality, integrity, and accessibility of personal data; (iii) refraining from processing personal data for undisclosed purposes unless the consumer consents; and (iv) obtaining explicit consent before processing sensitive data, particularly from known children, in accordance with the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act. Controllers will also need to conduct and document a data protection impact assessment for certain activities, such as targeted advertising, selling personal data, and profiling. Furthermore, controllers will be required to furnish consumers with a privacy notice containing information on the categories and purposes of data processing, consumer rights, appeals processes, and disclosures to third parties.

    The Act will grant consumers the right to confirm whether their personal data is being processed by a controller and to access that data, except where doing so would expose trade secrets. Also, consumers will have the right to rectify any inaccuracies, as well as the right to have their personal data deleted or to receive a copy of their personal data processed by the controller in a portable and easily usable format. This will allow transmission to another controller without impediment where processing is typically automated. Further, consumers will have the right to opt out of processing for targeted advertising, sale of personal data, or profiling for solely automated decisions with significant legal effects. Controllers must respond to consumer rights requests within 45 days and may be given another possible 45-day via an extension if necessary. Controllers and processors will be given a 30-day cure period during which they must confirm in writing that alleged violations have been rectified and pledge to prevent future breaches. The Act will go into effect January 1, 2026.

    Privacy, Cyber Risk & Data Security State Issues Kentucky Consumer Protection Gramm-Leach-Bliley

  • District Court files temporary restraining order to stop scammers in FTC suit

    Federal Issues

    On August 21, the FTC announced it has stopped California-based scammers (defendants) who allegedly preyed on students seeking debt relief by pretending to be affiliated with the Department of Education. According to the August 14 complaint, since at least 2019, the defendants allegedly targeted students and illegally collected $8.8 million in advance fees in exchange for student loan debt relief services that did not exist. The defendants allegedly misled consumers by charging them for services that are free through the Department of Education, claiming consumers needed to pay fees or make payments to access federal student loan forgiveness, using names like "Biden Loan Forgiveness," that does not correspond to any actual government program. For instance, one consumer was asked to pay $375 for a processing fee to have up to $20,000 in loans forgiven because of a Pell Grant. Another was told they would get a $10,000 reduction in their loan balance and a new repayment plan with six $250 monthly payments under the “student loan forgiveness program.” The FTC alleges violations of Section 5 of the FTC Act, which prohibits deceptive acts or practices, TCPA, and the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act. The complaint also alleges that the defendants used such misrepresentations to illegally obtain consumers’ banking information, and typically collected hundreds of dollars in unlawful advance fees—sometimes through remotely created checks in violation of the Telemarketing Sales Rule. The U.S. District Court of the Central District of California filed a temporary restraining order, resulting in an asset freeze, among other things. The FTC seeks preliminary, and permanent injunctive relief, monetary relief, and other relief.

    Federal Issues Courts Enforcement FTC Department of Education Student Lending Consumer Protection FTC Act TCPA Gramm-Leach-Bliley Deceptive

  • Agencies charge crypto platform and former executives

    Federal Issues

    On July 13, the FTC announced a proposed settlement to resolve allegations that a crypto platform engaged in unfair and deceptive acts or practices in violation of the FTC Act. The FTC also alleges that the defendants violated the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act by acquiring customer information from a financial institution regarding someone else by providing false or misleading statements. The New Jersey-based crypto company offers various cryptocurrency products and services to customers, such as interest-bearing accounts, personal loans backed by cryptocurrency deposits, and a cryptocurrency exchange. On the heels of its bankruptcy filing in July 2022, the FTC lodged a complaint in federal court alleging that three former executives falsely promised that deposits would be “safer” than bank deposits and always available for withdrawal, and that the platform posed “no risk” or “minimal risk.”

    The proposed stipulated order imposes a $4.72 million judgment against the corporate defendants, which is suspended based on their financial condition. The order also bans the corporate defendants from, among other things, “advertising, marketing, promoting, offering, or distributing, or assisting in the advertising, marketing, promoting, offering, or distributing of any product or service that can be used to deposit, exchange, invest, or withdraw assets, whether directly or through an intermediary.” 

    Other agencies also took action against the company and its former CEO on the same day, including the SEC, which alleges the company sold unregistered crypto asset securities in one of its program offerings. The SEC’s complaint further alleges the company made false and misleading statements and engaged in market manipulation. Additionally, the DOJ unsealed an indictment charging the former CEO and the company’s former chief revenue officer with conspiracy, securities fraud, market manipulation, and wire fraud for illicitly manipulating the price of the company’s token. Additionally, the CFTC filed a civil complaint charging the company and former CEO with fraud and material misrepresentations in connection with the operation of the company’s digital asset-based finance platform. The CFTC alleges the company operated as an unregistered commodity pool operator (CPO), and its former CEO operated as an unregistered associated person of a CPO. The complaint also accuses the former CEO of violating the Commodity Exchange Act and CFTC regulations, among other things. According to the press release, the company agreed to resolve the complaint, while the former CEO is continuing litigation.

    Federal Issues Digital Assets Securities Fintech Cryptocurrency FTC FTC Act Gramm-Leach-Bliley Enforcement Consumer Protection Deceptive SEC CFTC DOJ

  • FTC obtains TROs to halt student loan debt relief schemes

    Federal Issues

    On May 8, the FTC announced that the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California recently issued temporary restraining orders (TROs) against two student loan debt relief companies that allegedly tricked consumers into paying for nonexistent repayment and loan forgiveness programs. According to the complaints (see here and here), the defendants allegedly made deceptive claims in order to lure low-income consumers into paying hundreds to thousands of dollars in illegal upfront fees as part of a purported plan to pay down their student loans. The defendants allegedly made consumers believe that they were enrolled in a legitimate loan repayment program, that their loans would be forgiven in whole or in part, and that most or all of their payments would be applied to their loan balances. The FTC alleges that, in reality, the defendants pocketed the borrowers’ payments. The FTC also charged the defendants with falsely claiming to be or be affiliated with the Department of Education and stating that they were purchasing borrowers’ debt from federal student loan servicers in order to secure debt relief on their behalf. When consumers realized the debt relief program did not exist, the defendants allegedly often refused to provide refunds.

    According to the FTC, these deceptive misrepresentations violated Section 5 of the FTC Act and the Telemarketing Sales Rule (TSR). The FTC also alleges that the companies violated the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act (GLBA), by using deceptive tactics to obtain consumers’ financial information, and the TSR, by calling numbers listed on the National Do Not Call Registry and by failing to pay required Do Not Call Registry fees for access. In issuing the TROs (see here and here), which temporarily halt the two schemes and freeze the defendants’ assets, the court noted that, upon “[w]eighing the equities and considering the FTC’s likelihood of ultimate success on the merits,” there is good cause to believe that immediate and irreparable harm will occur as a result of the defendants’ ongoing violations of the FTC Act, the TSR, and the GLBA, unless the defendants are restrained and enjoined.

    Federal Issues Courts FTC Enforcement Student Lending Debt Relief Consumer Finance FTC Act Telemarketing Sales Rule UDAP Deceptive Gramm-Leach-Bliley

  • House committees move forward on data privacy

    Privacy, Cyber Risk & Data Security

    On March 1, the House Subcommittee on Innovation, Data, and Commerce, a subcommittee of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, held a hearing entitled “Promoting U.S. Innovation and Individual Liberty through a National Standard for Data Privacy” to continue discussions on the need for comprehensive federal privacy legislation. House Energy and Commerce Committee Chair Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA) delivered opening remarks, commenting that discussions during the hearing will build upon the bipartisan American Data Privacy and Protection Act (ADPPA), which advanced through the committee last July by a vote of 53-2. As previously covered by InfoBytes, the ADPPA (see H.R. 8152) was sent to the House floor during the last Congressional session, but never came up for a full chamber vote. The bill has not been reintroduced yet.

    A subcommittee memo highlighted that absent a comprehensive federal standard, “there are insufficient limits to what types of data companies may collect, process, and transfer.” The subcommittee flagged the data broker industry as an example of where there are limited restrictions or oversight to prevent the creation of consumer profiles that link sensitive data to individuals. Other areas of importance noted by the subcommittee relate to data security protections, data minimization requirements, digital advertising, and privacy enhancing technologies. The subcommittee heard from witnesses who agreed that a comprehensive privacy framework would benefit consumers.

    One of the witnesses commented in prepared remarks that preemption is key, calling the current patchwork of state laws confusing and costly to businesses and consumers. “Consumers need a strong and consistent law to protect them across jurisdictions and market sectors, and to clarify what privacy rights they should expect and demand as they navigate the marketplace,” the witness said. The witness also stated that the FTC is currently relying on outdated law, noting that while Section 5 of the FTC Act is frequently used, “virtually all of the FTC’s privacy and data security cases are settlements. That means that many of the legal theories advanced, as well as the remedies obtained, have never been tested in court.”

    In advance of the hearing, the California governor, the California attorney general, and the California Privacy Protection Agency sent a joint letter opposing preemption language contained in H.R. 8152. “[B]y prohibiting states from adopting, maintaining, enforcing, or continuing in effect any law covered by the legislation, [the ADPPA] would eliminate existing protections for residents in California and sister states,” the letter warned. The letter asked Congress “to set the floor and not the ceiling in any federal privacy law” and “allow states to provide additional protections in response to changing technology and data privacy protection practices.”

    Separately, at the end of February, Chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, Patrick McHenry (R-NC) introduced the Data Privacy Act of 2023 (see H.R. 1165). The bill moved out of committee by a 26-21 vote, and now goes to the full House for consideration. Among other things, the bill would modernize the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act to better align the statute with the evolving technological landscape. The bill would also ensure consumers understand how their data is being collected and used and grant consumers power to opt-out of the collection of their data and request that their data be deleted at any time. Additional provisions are intended to protect against the misuse or overuse of consumers’ personal data and impose disclosure requirements relating to data collection methods, how data is used and who it is shared with, data retention policies, and informed choice. The bill is designed to provide consistency across the country to reduce compliance burdens, McHenry said.

    Privacy, Cyber Risk & Data Security Federal Issues Federal Legislation House Energy and Commerce Committee House Financial Services Committee Gramm-Leach-Bliley State Issues CPPA Consumer Protection

  • Toomey seeks "greater transparency" on CRA agreements

    On September 7, Senate Banking Committee Ranking Member Pat Toomey (R-PA) wrote a letter to the Federal Reserve Board, OCC, and FDIC (together, the “Agencies”) expressing his concern for “the lack of transparency associated with community benefits plans (CBPs) developed by banks and community groups in connection with the Community Reinvestment Act,” which often remain undisclosed by banks despite the requirements of the CRA. He noted that greater transparency is “critically necessary” for Congress and the public to judge the efficacy of the CRA and its implementing regulations. Toomey described that the growth and prevalence of the dollar value of CBPs in recent years underscores the need to update the regulations implementing the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act’s CRA sunshine provision. Toomey requested that the Agencies establish a public, searchable database on their websites containing all CRA-related agreements, including CBPs, and to provide comprehensive data on those agreements. Additionally, Toomey urged the Agencies to broaden the definition of “covered agreement” under the regulations to align with congressional intent and mitigate the potential for evasion by banks and community groups.

    Bank Regulatory Federal Issues CRA OCC FDIC Federal Reserve Senate Banking Committee Gramm-Leach-Bliley

  • CFPB: Financial services companies must safeguard consumer data

    Agency Rule-Making & Guidance

    On August 11, the CFPB released Circular 2022-04 to reiterate that financial services companies may violate the CFPA’s prohibition on unfair acts or practices if they fail to safeguard consumer data. The Circular explained that, in addition to other federal laws governing data security for financial institutions, such as the Safeguards Rules issued under the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act (which was updated in 2021 and covered by InfoBytes here), “covered persons” and “service providers” are required to comply with the prohibition on unfair acts or practices in the CFPA. Examples of when firms can be held liable for lax data security protocols are provided within the Circular, as are examples of widely implemented data security practices. The Bureau explained that inadequate data security measures may cause significant harm to a few consumers who become victims of targeted identity theft as a result, or may harm potentially millions of consumers if a large customer-base-wide data breach occurs. The Bureau reiterated that actual injury is not required to satisfy the unfairness prong in every case. “A significant risk of harm is also sufficient,” the Bureau said, noting that the “prong of unfairness is met even in the absence of a data breach. Practices that ‘are likely to cause’ substantial injury, including inadequate data security measures that have not yet resulted in a breach, nonetheless satisfy this prong of unfairness.”

    While the circular does not suggest that any of the outlined security practices are specifically required under the CFPA, it does provide examples of situations where the failure to implement certain data security measures might increase the risk of legal liability. Measures include: (i) using multi-factor authentication; (ii) ensuring adequate password management; and (iii) implementing timely software updates. “Financial firms that cut corners on data security put their customers at risk of identity theft, fraud, and abuse,” CFPB Director Rohit Chopra said in the announcement. “While many nonbank companies and financial technology providers have not been subject to careful oversight over their data security, they risk legal liability when they fail to take commonsense steps to protect personal financial data.”

    Agency Rule-Making & Guidance Federal Issues Privacy, Cyber Risk & Data Security CFPB Consumer Protection Consumer Finance CFPA Nonbank UDAAP Unfair Safeguards Rule Gramm-Leach-Bliley

  • FTC probes cryptocurrency exchange operators

    Privacy, Cyber Risk & Data Security

    On August 9, the FTC issued an order denying a petition to quash a civil investigative demand (CID) against the operators of a cryptocurrency exchange regarding allegations of a December 2021 data breach. According to the order, the FTC “is investigating potential law violations arising out of [the company’s] operation and marketing of [the company], and whether Commission action to obtain monetary relief would be in the public interest.” The agency issued a virtually identical CID to the company on May 11 seeking details on what the company disclosed to consumers regarding the security of their crypto assets and how they have handled customer complaints. The FTC noted that investigation includes inquiries regarding the company’s “representations concerning its advertised exchange services; allegations that consumers have been denied access to their accounts; and concerns about the security of customer accounts especially in light of a publicly reported 2021 security breach that resulted in consumer loss of more than $200 million in cryptocurrency.” Among other things, the FTC is seeking to determine if the business practices of the operation in marketing and operating the company “constituted ‘unfair [or] deceptive . . . acts or practices . . . relating to the marketing of goods and services,’ or ‘[m]anipulative [c]onduct,’ ‘on the Internet’ (Resolution No. 2123125); constituted “deceptive or unfair acts or practices related to consumer privacy and/or data security’ in violation of Section 5 of the FTC Act (Resolution No. 1823036); or violated the GLB Act, its implementing rules, or Section 5 regarding ‘the privacy or security of consumer [financial] information.”

    Privacy, Cyber Risk & Data Security Federal Issues FTC Digital Assets Cryptocurrency Data Breach Enforcement FTC Act Gramm-Leach-Bliley

  • Rep. McHenry introduces draft privacy legislation based on GLBA

    Federal Issues

    On June 23, House Financial Services Ranking Member Patrick McHenry (R-NC) released a discussion draft of new federal legislation intended to modernize financial data privacy laws and provide consumers more control over the collection and use of their personal information. (See overview of the discussion draft here.) The draft bill seeks to build on the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act (GLBA) to better align financial data protection law with evolving technologies that have innovated the financial system and the way in which consumers interact with financial institutions, including nonbank institutions. “Technology has fundamentally changed the way consumers participate in our financial system—increasing access and inclusion. It has also increased the amount of sensitive data shared with service providers. Our privacy laws—especially as they relate to financial data—must keep up,” McHenry said, emphasizing the importance of finding a way to “secure Americans’ privacy without strangling innovation.”

    Among other things, the draft bill:

    • Requires notice of collection activities. The GLBA currently requires that consumers be provided notice when their information is being disclosed to third parties. The draft bill updates this requirement to require financial institutions to provide notice when consumers’ nonpublic personal information is being collected.
    • Recognizes the burden on small institutions. The draft bill stipulates that agencies shall consider compliance costs imposed on smaller financial institutions when promulgating rules.
    • Amends the definition of a “financial institution.” The draft bill will update the definition to cover data aggregators in addition to financial institutions engaged in financial activities as described in 4(k) of the Bank Holding Company Act of 1956.
    • Expands the definition of non-public information. The draft bill expands the definition of “personally identifiable financial information” to include “information that identifies, relates to, describes, is reasonably capable of being associated with, or could reasonably be linked, directly or indirectly, with a particular consumer.” Publicly available information is not included in this definition. The definition of “consumer account credentials” will mean “nonpublic information (including a username, password, or an answer to a security question) that enables the consumer to access an account of the consumer at a financial institution.”
    • Provides consumers access to data. The draft bill provides that financial institutions must, upon an authorized request from a consumer, disclose the data held, entities with which the financial institution shares consumer data, and a list of entities from whom the financial institution has received a consumer’s non-public personal information.
    • Allows consumers to stop the collection and disclosure of their data. When a financial institution is required to terminate the collection and/or sharing of a consumer’s nonpublic personal information, the draft bill provides that a financial institution must notify third parties that data sharing is terminated and must require the third parties to also terminate collection and disclosure. Additionally, upon request from a consumer, the financial institution must delete any nonpublic personal information in its possession, and if required by law to retain the data, the financial institution may only use the data for that purpose.
    • Minimizes data collection. The draft bill requires that financial institutions notify consumers of their data collection practices in their privacy policies, including the categories collected, how the information is collected, and the purposes for the collection. Consumers must be allowed an opportunity to opt-out of the collection of their data if not necessary for the provision of the product or service by that entity.
    • Provides informed choice and transparency. Under the draft bill, privacy terms and conditions must be transparent and easily understandable. The draft bill requires the disclosure of a financial institution’s privacy policies in a manner that provides consumers meaningful understanding of what data is being collected, the manner in which the data is collected, the purposes for which the data will be used, the right to opt-out, who has access to the data, how an entity is using the data, where the data will be shared, the data retention policies of the entity, the consumer’s termination rights, and the rights associated with that data for uses inconsistent with stated purpose, among others.
    • Stipulates liability for unauthorized access. The draft bill states that “[i]f the nonpublic personal information of a consumer is obtained from a financial institution (either due to a data breach or in any other manner) and used to make unauthorized access of the consumer’s account, the financial institution shall be liable to the consumer for the full amount of any damages resulting from such unauthorized access.’’
    • Requires preemption. The draft bill will preempt state privacy laws to create a national standard.

    The draft bill was introduced days after the House Subcommittee on Consumer Protection and Commerce heard testimony from consumer advocates and industry representatives on the recently proposed bipartisan American Data Privacy and Protection Act (covered by a Buckley Special Alert here).

    Federal Issues Privacy/Cyber Risk & Data Security Federal Legislation Gramm-Leach-Bliley Consumer Protection

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