2020Looking Back on 2020’s Top Privacy and Cybersecurity Trends

Looking Back on 2020’s Top Privacy and Cybersecurity Trends

As 2020 comes to a close, Beckage looks back on the ways this difficult and unprecedented year impacted the data privacy and cybersecurity landscape both domestically and across the globe.

Enhanced Privacy Challenges and Concerns Due to Covid-19

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, businesses around the globe made a major pivot to online or virtual operations early this year. An intentional focus on data protection and a solid understanding of the regulatory landscape is a legal requirement that demands the integration of data protection up front in any network design or business practice. The increase in exposure of company assets made it necessary to implement a variety of technical safeguards. Companies still had to meet the compliance milestones of the NY SHIELD Act and California’s Consumer Protection Act (CCPA) while dealing with new privacy challenges caused by a distributed workforce and a global health pandemic. Beckage reminds organizations of the importance of revisiting their readiness through business continuity, incident response, and more expansive administrative, technical, and physical safeguards when shifting to a work-from-home model and recommends continued assessment of your company’s privacy pitfalls in this ever-shifting legal landscape.

Increased Ransomware and Cyberattacks

With rapid changes in organizational operations caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, attackers became more sophisticated in their strategies and unleashed several unrelenting, simultaneous attacks on service providers and the organizations they serve in 2020. Victims of recent cyber attacks, such as the SolarWinds campaign carried out in December, include government agencies, healthcare providers, consulting agencies, and , technology, telecom, and oil and gas companies. In many of these campaigns, attackers were able to gain access and move freely throughout an organization’s server, installing additional software, creating new accounts, and accessing sensitive data and valuable resources while remaining largely undetected. In response to the uptick in data incidents this year, the Beckage Incident Response Team recommends organizations implement several preventative steps to safeguard their organization to help minimize legal risk.

Patient Access Rights and Interoperability

Recent developments in 2020 concerning patients’ right to access health information to implement interoperability and record access requirements intend to help patients obtain access to health records and payment data to make informed decisions about their healthcare. The CMS Proposed Rule and the OCR Proposed Rule represent a complete overhaul of well-established standards and an introduction of new and highly technical requirements with healthcare compliance. The experienced Health Law Team at Beckage can help to distill these lengthy and complicated rules so organizations can understand practical implications on daily operations.

Increased International Focus on Consumer Privacy

On the heels of EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), many countries followed suit by establishing legal frameworks for governing how organizations collect, use, and store their citizens’ personal data. One example is Brazil’s Lei Geral de Proteção de Dados (LGPD), which went into effect in August of 2020. This general data protection law, which closely mimics the GDPR, places strict requirements on organizations that process Brazilian citizen’s personal data.

At the same time, Europe continued to elevate its enforcement of the GDPR, with major decisions from various member state Data Protection Authorities, the European Court of Justice (ECJ), and the European Data Protection Board (EDBP). The most impactful for businesses across the globe was the ECJ’s decision in Schrems II, which invalidated the EU-US Privacy Shield and called into question the long-term viability of the Standard Contractual Clauses (SCCs) to transfer data from the EU to the US. In 2021, companies should closely monitor the evolving guidance on international data transfers and be prepared to mitigate risk of global data transfers.

Beckage’s Global Data Privacy Team expects continued adoption of data protection regulations across many regions, and an emphasis on creating global security and privacy compliance programs in the year ahead.

Uptick in ADA Litigation

This past year, the Beckage Accessibility Team has witnessed a drastic increase in litigation under Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act. On average, about eight new lawsuits are filed a day by disabled individuals alleging unequal access to goods and services provided on a company’s digital platforms. While the Department of Justice (DOJ) has consistently held that the ADA applies to websites and mobile apps, they have failed to clarify the precise requirements for a business to be deemed compliant. This has prompted a wave of litigation by plaintiffs’ who claim a website or mobile app’s incompatibility with assistive technology, like screen-reading software, has denied them full access to and equal enjoyment of the goods, services, and accommodations of the website, therefore violating the ADA. Most of these lawsuits are settled quickly out of court to avoid litigating in such uncertain legal terrain.

Beckage handles the defense of website accessibility lawsuits as well as assists companies in navigate pre and post-suit settlement agreements for this unique area of the law.  Beckage also works with clients under privilege to conduct internal and remedial audits of client websites and mobile applications, evaluate platform compatibility and oversee implementation of recommended remedial or accessibility-enhancement measures.

California Consumer Protection Act (CCPA)  

Enforcement of California’s comprehensive California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) began on July 1, 2020 and has brought a range of plaintiff related lawsuits under its private right of action provision expanding California breach laws. For a data breach to be actionable, the information accessed must be identified as personal information, as narrowly defined by California’s data breach notification law. Recently, in November 2020, the Consumer Right To Privacy Act (CRPA) ballot initiative was passed, creating additional privacy rights and obligations pertaining to sensitive personal information that will go into effect. CPRA also expands data breach liability created by the CCPA, adds a private right of action for unauthorized access that permits access to an account if the business failed to maintain reasonable security, and imposes data protection obligations directly on service providers, contractors, and third parties. Beckage urges businesses who operate in or serve California citizens to continue to follow CCPA developments and carefully monitor related litigation in the coming months.

Emerging Technologies

The recent expansion of the Illinois Biometric Information Privacy Act (BIPA) has resulted in numerous class actions suits against organizations alleged to have collected plaintiffs’ biometric data. With the expanding use of biometric equipment, these claims often allege defendants obtained plaintiffs’ biometric data without complying with the BIPA’s notification and consent requirements. Upcoming class suits may address the issue of BIPA having an extraterritorial effect when bringing claims against out of state vendors.

Similarly, computers that manipulate the media, known as deep fakes, advance the dangers of influenced perceptions. The advancements of deep fakes are giving rise to laws regarding defamation, trade libel, false light, violation of right of publicity, or intentional infliction of emotional distress. Sophisticated tech lawyers can assist in determining rights and technological solutions to mitigate harm. As former tech business owners, Beckage lawyers want to drive innovation with use of these new and emerging technologies while understanding standards and laws that may impact such development. Beckage recommends that companies proactively mitigate the risks associated with collecting biometric information and deep fakes to prevent legal repercussions and defamation. 

Key Takeaways

2020 proved to be an unpredictable year in more ways than one. The COVID-19 pandemic forced companies to rapidly adapt to new privacy and data security challenges caused by a distributed workforce, emerging technologies, and an increased focus on ecommerce with in-person shopping and events. As we move towards 2021 with no definitive end to the pandemic in sight, it is crucial for companies to prioritize data privacy and cybersecurity initiatives by consulting qualified legal tech experts who can help navigate the uncertainty next year will bring. Beckage attorneys can assist in creating, implementing, and evaluating robust data security and privacy infrastructures that will help put your business in a position to tackle all the challenges 2021 has in store.

*Attorney Advertising. Prior results do not guarantee similar outcomes.

Subscribe to our newsletter.

Health LawHHS Proposed Rules Could Have Significant Impact on Health Plans and Health Care Providers

HHS Proposed Rules Could Have Significant Impact on Health Plans and Health Care Providers

Beckage’s Health Law Team is monitoring recent developments concerning patient’s right to access health information. Last week, two agencies within the Department of Health and Human Services (“HHS”) announced proposed rules that could have a significant impact on health plans and health care providers. Though applicability of the proposed rules varies, both rules focus on individuals’ right to access health information, a compliance area that has seen increased scrutiny and enforcement actions in recent years.

OCR Proposed Rule

On December 10th, the HHS Office of Civil Rights (“OCR”) announced proposed changes to the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (“HIPAA”) Privacy Rule as part of a new proposed rule (“OCR Proposed Rule”). The OCR Proposed Rule is intended to reduce barriers for patients accessing medical records themselves and for covered entities using records related to care coordination and case management. While the OCR Proposed Rule eases some requirements for covered entities, it also creates a number of new requirements.

Key takeaways include:

  • Patient Access Requests: While covered entities currently have 30 days to respond to patient requests for access to their own health information, the OCR Proposed Rule would shorten this timeframe to 15 days (though it would allow an additional 15-day extension). Additionally, the OCR Proposed Rule would allow patients who are inspecting their records in person to capture images and take notes.
  • Fee Schedules and Notice of Privacy Practices: The OCR Proposed Rule would require covered entities to post their fee schedules for producing health records on their websites. In addition, covered entities would need to modify their Notice of Privacy Practices (“NPP”) to clarify patient rights, including prominent presentation of information about how patients can file HIPAA complaints and clarification that patients may direct release of their detailed records even when only a summary of records is made available to the patient. However, covered entities would no longer need to obtain patient acknowledgement of receipt of the NPP.
  • Use and Disclosure of Protected Health Information: The OCR Proposed Rule also broadens the scope of when and how covered entities can use and disclose protected health information, for the purpose of health care operations, with use and disclosure now permitted for case management and care coordination. Furthermore, there are additional provisions for sharing patient health information among covered entities, including among Armed Services care providers. CMS also updated references to reflect widespread use of electronic health records (EHR).

CMS Proposed Rule

Also on December 10th, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (“CMS”) announced proposed changes to the CMS Interoperability and Patient Access Final Rule (“Interoperability Rule”) issued earlier this year as part of a new proposed rule (“CMS Proposed Rule”). Visit Beckage’s previous blog on the Interoperability Rule here.

Key takeaways include:

  • Payer Requirements: The CMS Proposed Rule requires payers to provide patients with access to information about pending and active prior authorization decisions through their Patient Access API, which payers are required to implement under the Interoperability Rule. The CMS Proposed Rule also clarifies that payers can and must implement an attestation process for third-party apps to attest to security and privacy safeguards prior to accessing the payer’s Patient Access API on behalf of the member. Additionally, it specifies technical requirements for the Payer-to-Payer API, which must now be implemented using Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources (“FHIR”) standards.
  • Provider Requirements: The CMS Proposed Rule requires providers to develop a Provider Access API for providers and payers to share claims and encounter data, certain types of clinical data, and pending and active prior authorization decisions.

Though the proposed rules will likely change during the 60-day public comment period, they underscore HHS’s commitment to individuals’ right to access health information. We encourage covered entities to review the proposed rules carefully to understand how the changes will potentially impact daily operations and procedures.

The experienced Health Law team at Beckage can help to distill these lengthy and complicated rules so organizations can understand practical implications on daily operations. Our seasoned health law attorneys are uniquely positioned to advise on regulatory compliance matters, as they have also worked in health care settings, are certified privacy professionals, and are technologists.

Call Beckage at 716.898.2102 for assistance analyzing these and other regulatory and legislative matters.

*Attorney advertising. Prior results to not guarantee a similar outcome.

Subscribe to our newsletter.

ONCHHS Announces Last-Minute Changes to Compliance Deadlines

HHS Announces Last-Minute Changes to Compliance Deadlines

The US Department of Health and Human Services’ (“HHS”) Office of National Coordinator for Health IT (“ONC”) recently extended a few key compliance deadlines relevant to developers of certified health IT products, healthcare providers, and health information networks and exchanges (HIEs/HINs). Specifically, ONC pushed back certain requirements related to certification of certified health IT products and Information Blocking found in the ONC Cures Act Final Rule (ONC Rule), a rule that promotes seamless and secure access, exchange, and use of electronic health information through standardized health IT requirements. HHS stressed that it has extended these compliance deadlines to provide the healthcare industry additional time to implement the ONC Rule as the healthcare industry continues to grapple with the myriad challenges presented by COVID-19.

Developers of certified health IT are required to certify their products under the ONC Health IT Certification Program (“Program”). The Program now incorporates numerous new administrative and technical requirements outlined in the ONC Rule. The updated compliance deadlines give developers of certified health IT more time to update their currently certified products or build new products to comply with the new certification requirements, as well as more time to test those products. These developers also have additional time to attest under the Program that their products are compliant with specific conditions (known in the industry as the Conditions and Maintenance of Certification (“COC”)) that were updated by the ONC Rule.

Additionally, under the updated deadlines, developers of certified health IT, as well as healthcare providers and HIEs/HINs, have more time to comply with the new Information Blocking obligations required under the ONC Rule. Information Blocking is defined as any practice that is likely to “interfere with, prevent, or materially discourage access, exchange, or use of electronic health information.” There are eight narrow exceptions to these practices that allow an entity to engage in this type of behavior, most notably where the practice is intended to prevent harm, safeguard the security of electronic health information, or safeguard the privacy of the individual’s electronic health information.

The following is a summary of some key deadlines: 

Requirement Deadline 
Developers of certified health IT, healthcare providers, and HIEs/HINs cannot engage in Information Blocking. April 5, 2021 
Developers of certified health IT must attest that they comply with the CoC that were updated by the ONC Rule. May 1, 2022 
All products certified under the Program must align with the ONC Rule’s new technical certification requirements. December 31, 2022 (except with respect to a requirement related to electronic health information exports, which is not required until December 31, 2023) 
Developers of certified health IT must successfully test their certified health IT under real world conditions.Initial Plan for testing due December 14, 2021; Initial Results of testing due March 15, 2023 

For more information regarding the specific deadline updates, please see HHS’s official press release regarding the changes.

We anticipate that the updated compliance deadlines will be a welcome change given the many technical and compliance challenges presented by the ONC Rule. With this extra breathing room, now is the ideal time for companies to evaluate their compliance posture with respect to the ONC Rule and begin to develop strategies for adopting and implementing the new requirements under the ONC Rule, as implementation will require consultation with technical and legal teams. Beckage attorneys will continue to follow the evolving regulatory compliance guidance on deadlines and substantive requirements to assist clients in the health IT and healthcare industry as they navigate these and other new regulatory requirements. Beckage attorneys are uniquely experienced to help health organizations and tech companies of all sizes to navigate the complicated maze of legal and practical considerations raised by these and other health law regulations. Please do not hesitate to reach out if you are interested in discussing the ONC Rule’s potential impact on your business.

*Attorney Advertising. Prior results do not guarantee future outcomes. 

Subscribe to our Newsletter.

WorkforceTweaking Your Incident Response Plan to Address A Distributed Workforce

Tweaking Your Incident Response Plan to Address A Distributed Workforce

With the sudden, drastic increase of distributed workforces came implementation of new practices and access solutions, which in turn created more surface area for bad actors to attack and more potential gaps for them to exploit.  

A business’s Incident Response Plan is its playbook for deploying a rapid, proportional response to a potential security threat, with the goal of complying with applicable data privacy and security laws while maintaining client services. Such a plan generally lists the roles and responsibilities of staff positions as they work through phases of Detection, Analysis, Containment and Eradication, Recovery, and Reporting. The collection of key staff members is commonly understood to be the Incident Response Team (IRT) and their familiarity with the plan and preparation in advance of a potential incident are often key to successful responses.  

Here are some important considerations in evaluating your current Incident Response Plan:

Communication

Communication is always key, but now it may need to be handled without face-to-face meetings or assembling the IRT in a conference room. An Incident Response Plan, similar to a Disaster Recovery Plan or Business Continuity Plan, should plainly state the methods of communication IRT members will rely on, in order of preference, in response to a potential incident. Thought should be given to what forms of communication are likely to be interrupted or compromised in an incident, and what back up communication method(s) will be relied on. With IRT members working from home, which communication methods yield lower risk of interruption, are more secure, and are available to all IRT members? Be careful of using free platforms or apps to communicate.  Many are not secure, there is no expectation of privacy, and the data stored can be discoverable or subject to subpoena.

Relatedly, does the Plan identify which leaders are responsible for internal or external communications regarding an incident? For example, in an office setting business phone lines and clustering of staff could allow a team to efficiently direct all inbound questions or concerns about an incident to a VP of Communications. Pick a title not a department. Now, with cell phones serving as a primary tool of communication, does your team need a refresher of how to address communication from external parties or a reminder of professional responsibilities when confronting a potential incident? Also remember, during an incident, systems are likely not accessible because they are encrypted. So, does every member of the IRT have a printed version of the Incident Response Plan at home with everyone’s contact information?

Resource Allocation

The first phase of most Incident Response Plans revolves around detection – identifying what is happening and collecting details about a potential incident. Your Incident Response Plan might implicitly assume that IT staff or others with specialized knowledge related to identifying a security or privacy issue are on hand or available at the same location as a point of compromise. When considering your new work from home environment, it is time to consider how your IT staff will be available in the earliest moments after a potential incident is reported. Where possible, it may be time to consider end point detection and response solutions – an addition to your IT management environment that can provide remote insight and management of laptops being used by employees from their homes. Such a solution can speed the collection of important forensic details while hastening the containment and wider response.  

Role Adaptation

Work from home environments may change a member of the IRT’s ability to address the role or responsibilities they were previously assigned. Often times Incident Response requires confidential conversations, privileged communication and/or discussion about sensitive data and it is important to address with members of the IRT whether they can meaningfully, and responsibly participate in incident response when working from home. There are often more competing interests in a homebound setting than in an office and when updating and reviewing an Incident Response Plan, your company has the chance to address with each member of the IRT whether they can still satisfy their role while potentially handling such competing interests.  Such review can allow for updates and edits to IRT members’ roles and responsibilities in advance of a potential incident, instead of in the midst of one, saving valuable time, energy and focus.

Practice

An Incident Response Plan best serves its purpose when it is regularly reviewed as part of a tabletop exercise.  Such an exercise promotes clarifying questions amongst members of an IRT and familiarizes everyone involved with their roles and expectations for others. Additionally, an Incident Response Plan rehearsal reminds all IRT members of the importance of communication and how critical legal determinations, such as what constitutes a data breach, must be considered when discussing or communicating about an incident.

Now that your IRT is working from home, how will they make use of your Incident Response Plan? The best way to find out is to schedule time to run a remote tabletop exercise. The updated exercise can provide insight into new strengths or weaknesses created by a distributed IRT.  Such practice can highlight the differences created by an at-home response, such as does everyone on the IRT have a hard copy of the Incident Response Plan in the event one is not accessible online?

Coordinated Vigilance

Updating your Incident Response Plan is key, but it should be done in coordination with improvement to other safeguards.  In parallel with rolling out new work-from-home measures, companies should consider adjusting relevant policies, such as the Acceptable Use Policy, and assess how new access controls or encryption measures, such as virtual private networks, can mitigate risks to security. While employees are adjusting to an array of new norms, it may be less disruptive to add a few more, including multi-factor authorization, new password complexity standards, and other access control measures. By remaining vigilant and keeping continuous focus on the issues of security and privacy, companies stitch best practices into the cultural fabric of their team.

If you have questions about creating a legally defensive Incident Response Plan contact sophisticated tech counsel, we would be happy to help. Beckage is a law firm focused only on tech, data security and privacy. Its lawyers are also technologist and former tech business owners. Beckage is also proud to be a certified Minority and/or Women Owned Business Enterprise (MWBE).

*Attorney Advertising. Prior results do not guarantee future outcomes.

Subscribe to our newsletter.

CoronavirusDigital Transformation in the Time of COVID-19

Digital Transformation in the Time of COVID-19

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, businesses around the globe have made a major pivot to online or virtual operations, hitting fast forward on digital transformations that usually take time and careful planning. Everything from university classes to corporate board meetings to wine tasting at your local bar have jumped online, opening a whole new world of possibilities—and potential data security and privacy risks that should not be overlooked. With privacy and data security concerns more important than ever before, it is important to remember that even emergency digital transformations must use a “measure twice cut once” strategy that factors in Privacy by Design at the outset.

Why Privacy Considerations Can’t Wait Until Later

In the rush to move business online, it may seem like a necessity to gloss over privacy risks and deal with them later. However this approach is inefficient at best and can be disastrous if there’s a security breach. Digital transformation has to start without an intentional focus on data protection and a solid understanding of the regulatory landscape.

This understanding is becoming increasingly important as privacy laws like the GDPR and CCPA, along with a host of new regulations on the horizon, highlight Privacy by Design principles in their consumer privacy guidelines. That means in many cases, putting consumer privacy first isn’t just good business—it’s a legal requirement. In fact, article 25 of the GDPR demands that organizations practice “privacy by design and by default,” meaning organizations must integrate data protection up front in any design or business practice and maintain those protections throughout the data lifecycle.

How to Make Privacy a Cornerstone of Digital Transformation

A good digital transformation strategy will define goals, identify appropriate technologies, establish leadership and educate staff on the new technologies and protocols. But each of those steps should be driven by data privacy and security considerations.

Therefore even if the digital transformation needs to happen quickly, it’s critical to make sure privacy is the cornerstone of the plan. At Beckage our experienced team of attorneys can work with you to assess potential privacy pitfalls and blind spots, especially in this ever-shifting legal landscape. Beckage attorneys provide on-site and around-the-clock counsel to clients on data protection and information security practices required under state or federal law, for example, or advise on security risks and responsibilities. Taking the time to employ Privacy by Design is an upfront investment that will help ensure your digital transformation strategy is built on solid ground.

*Attorney Advertising. Prior results do not guarantee future outcomes.

Subscribe to our newsletter.

1 2