Category: Government Regulation, Legislation & Enforcement

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Privacy in the time of COVID-19
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Uniformity of Law II: NSW Government pledges to introduce Mandatory Data Breach Reporting in respect to State Government Agencies
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This is your digital life (of no consent or control): The Australian Information Commissioner takes Facebook to Court
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You’ve got mail…and lots of it according to the latest OAIC report!
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New Decade, New Facebook? Facebook Reaches $550 Million Settlement in Facial Recognition Class Action, Agrees to Upgrade Privacy Safeguards
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You’ve Got (Junk) Mail: Optus Slammed with $504k Fine For Spam Law Breach
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Post-Brexit data protection – where are we now?
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You Can’t Throw the (Face)Book at Them: Affected Users Unable to Pursue Damages Claim against Facebook
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California’s answer to the GDPR – the California Consumer Privacy Act kicks in on 1 Jan 2020
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Double-Edged Sword: Cambridge Analytica Whistle-Blower exposes the dual nature of Technology

Privacy in the time of COVID-19

By Cameron Abbott, Rob Pulham, Michelle Aggromito and Rebecca Gill

Nothing can stop us from talking about privacy, including a pandemic! Yesterday, the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner (OAIC) issued guidance on the collection, use and disclosure of personal information during the COVID-19 pandemic (Guidance). 

It mainly serves as a reminder to organisations that even in these pressing times, they must comply with the Australian privacy regime. However, it also highlights what organisations can collect and do with personal information for the purposes of preventing and managing the spread of COVID-19.

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Uniformity of Law II: NSW Government pledges to introduce Mandatory Data Breach Reporting in respect to State Government Agencies

Cameron Abbott, Warwick Andersen and Max Evans

Following on from the consultation opened by the NSW Government in July 2019 (the subject of a previous blog), NSW Attorney-General Mark Speakman has committed to introducing a mandatory data breach scheme, according to an article by ITNews.

At present, neither NSW privacy laws nor the notifiable data breach scheme under Part IIIC of the Privacy Act 1988 (Cth) require public sector agencies in NSW to notify the NSW Privacy Commissioner and affected individuals where a data breach creates a risk of serious harm. This led to a consultation conducted by the Department of Communities and Justice in late 2019, which revealed “overwhelming public support” for the introduction of a mandatory data breach scheme in NSW, with the NSW Government “sharing a view” that the relevant scheme should be introduced.

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This is your digital life (of no consent or control): The Australian Information Commissioner takes Facebook to Court

By Cameron Abbott, Rob Pulham and Rebecca Gill

In a first for Australia, the Australian Information Commissioner (Commissioner) has launched proceedings in the Federal Court of Australia, seeking penalties against Facebook for serious and/or repeated interferences with privacy. The contraventions relate to the conduct disclosed by the Cambridge Analytica scandal, which involved the This is Your Digital Life app (App). We’ve previously blogged about the App here.

It is unclear how the penalties will be calculated in this proceeding. The penalty rate applicable to the relevant period (being from March 2014 to May 2015) is a maximum of $1.7 million. Some have suggested that fines may be in the billions if the maximum rate is applied to each individual affected as a single “contravention” (with possibly over 300,000 contraventions in total!). This may be fun to calculate, but highly unlikely to be applied in reality.

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You’ve got mail…and lots of it according to the latest OAIC report!

By Cameron Abbott and Michelle Aggromito

With email being one of the most common forms of communication, it’s not surprising that inboxes these days accumulate thousands of emails that, perhaps, aren’t always electronically filed or deleted (not ours of course).

As the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner (OAIC) has indicated in its most recent report on notifications received under the Notifiable Data Breach (NBD) scheme, email accounts are frequently being used for storage, and this raises inherent risk. Yes it’s convenient, but using email to send personal information, such as copies of passports, bank account details and credit card information, can very quickly lose its appeal. If the email account is accessed by a malicious actor through a phishing attack or a rogue employee, the end result can be exploitation of that information for criminal gain.

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New Decade, New Facebook? Facebook Reaches $550 Million Settlement in Facial Recognition Class Action, Agrees to Upgrade Privacy Safeguards

By Cameron Abbott, Max Evans and Florence Fermanis

Facebook is in the news again, but this time it’s not for the Cambridge Analytica scandal that took over our screens in 2019. Facebook has agreed to pay $550 Million USD to settle a class action which claimed that it had collected and stored biometric information belonging to millions of users without their consent, according to reports by Reuters and TechXplore.

According to the reports, the relevant users alleged that Facebook illegally collected biometric data through its ‘Tag Suggestions’ feature, which allowed users to recognise Facebook friends from uploaded photographs.

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You’ve Got (Junk) Mail: Optus Slammed with $504k Fine For Spam Law Breach

By Cameron Abbott, Max Evans and Florence Fermanis

Optus has been fined $504,000 by the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) for breaching spam laws, according to articles by the ABC and the SMH. The fine is the second largest in ACMA’s history to be awarded, being just $6,000 shy of the $510,000 fine which was slapped on Telstra in 2014 for missing service standards for urban landline connections.

Despite customers notifying Optus of their wish to opt-out or unsubscribe from such messages, an ACMA investigation found that customers still received the relevant messages, resulting in more than 2 million breaches to the Spam Act 2003 (Cth). Rather than a ‘one-off’ issue, it was found that Optus had systemic deficiencies with their compliance procedures and governance.

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Post-Brexit data protection – where are we now?

By Cameron Abbott and Michelle Aggromito

After years of political squabble and delays, Brexit day finally arrived on 31 January 2020. But what does it mean when we talk about the UK’s withdrawal from the EU and how will data protection regulation and compliance change?

There will be little change during the transition (also known as “implementation”) period that is expected to end on 31 December 2020. During this period, EU law will continue to apply in the UK, including the EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), after which the GDPR will be converted into UK law.

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You Can’t Throw the (Face)Book at Them: Affected Users Unable to Pursue Damages Claim against Facebook

By Cameron Abbott, Max Evans and James Gray

A US federal judge has ruled that the 29 million Facebook users affected by the September 2018 data breach may not seek damages as a remedy, but can only pursue the enforcement of better security practices at Facebook, according to a report by Reuters. Judge Alsup of the US District Court stated that Facebook’s repetitive losses of users’ privacy indicated a long-term need for supervision, which comes in addition to prior judgment which indicated that Facebook’s views about user’s privacy expectations were “so wrong”.

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California’s answer to the GDPR – the California Consumer Privacy Act kicks in on 1 Jan 2020

By Cameron Abbott ,Tan Xin Ya and John ReVeal

In just a short few weeks, a monumental change of privacy regulations will kick in for US businesses. On 1 January 2020, the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) will come into effect, with a compliance deadline at the end of January 2020, and signifies a shift in tone in the privacy sphere for the US – with a move closer to global privacy norms, and away from the perspective that personal data is a company asset.

A series of data disasters such as Facebook’s Cambridge Analytica scandal and the massive Equifax breach left many Americans feeling powerless. Regulators stepped in after the fact to punish the companies, but at the time, there was little that U.S. consumers could do to prevent data breaches. Under the CCPA, Americans (well, Californians, mostly) move a step closer to general privacy protection. However, the Act only targets larger companies or those with prolific data use so there is still a long way to go to being general protection.

In October, the California Governor signed five bills to amend CCPA to provide some regulatory relief for businesses when the CCPA comes into effect. For a detailed analysis on the amendments, we refer you to Volume 2 of our colleagues’ Volume 2 of The Privacists available at the K&L Gates Hub.

Double-Edged Sword: Cambridge Analytica Whistle-Blower exposes the dual nature of Technology

By Cameron Abbott, Max Evans and James Gray

In his cautionary tale, 1984, author George Orwell spoke of a paradigm where the unregulated use of powerful technology, referred to as “telescreens”, manifested a society beholden to the ethics of the controller. This paradigm is perhaps more real than ever, according to an article by Reuters

By exploring the views of Cambridge Analytica whistle-blower Christopher Wylie, the article advises that the deep, multifaceted involvement of big tech companies in consumers’ lives, the ultimate dependence that arises from such involvement and the overwhelming vulnerability of such consumers renders tech companies “too big to fail”. Wylie argues that the vast imbalance of power and information in favour of these companies over users is resulting in a constant scrambling by regulators to control the rapid adoption of such technology forms.

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