Like so many companies navigating the challenges and changes demanded by COVID-19, we at Taft have had to move our entire workforce home while maintaining a high level of support for our employees and clients. Whether in crisis, design, or other business strategy, companies should carefully and methodically approach the transition of its employees, equipment, and data to a remote environment. Such an approach should be followed in all such moves, whether temporary or permanent. In this article we share what we have learned and some best practices that will benefit any company considering making the move.

A. Operational Support (Andrea Markstrom, CIO, Taft Stettinius & Hollister LLP)

Faced with COVID-19 and moving a firm of 620+ attorneys to home offices, I knew this was not just another business continuity tabletop exercise. I needed to plan thoroughly while still reacting quickly. To do so, I thought about how we were going to be able to keep our employees safe, fully productive, and continue providing excellent service to our clients. To be successful, I think you need to consider and accomplish the following three things.
Continue Reading It’s more than giving ‘em a laptop: Operational & Security Considerations for Supporting the Remote Workforce

For years, the idea of a federal privacy law in the same vein as GDPR seemed to be a far-fetched dream.  Then came the nightmare: coronavirus.  As mobile device and other monitoring services are being considered for employers and retail, because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the U.S. Senate announced a bill, which would apply to the collection of American health, geolocation, and proximity information.

The COVID-19 Consumer Data Protection Act (the “Act”) aims to heighten protection for American’s data by imposing requirements on businesses similar to those seen in the GDPR and CCPA.  Specifically, the Act is designed to protect information that constitutes “precise geolocation data, proximity data, and personal health information.”  Any entity or person who “collects, processes, or transfers covered information” and is also subject to the Federal Trade Commission Act, is a common carrier subject to the Communications Act of 1934, or is a nonprofit organization would be subject to the law.


Continue Reading COVID-19 Inspires Federal Consumer Privacy Act

As up-to-date readers of Taft’s Privacy & Data Security Insights blog know, the legal landscape continues to quickly evolve due to the economic, legal and privacy impacts of COVID-19. Moreover, we have seen significant flexibility from government agencies on various laws and regulations as a result of COVID-19.

Brazil’s encroaching data privacy law is the latest to suffer a delay as a result of the economic uncertainty caused by COVID-19. Brazil’s General Data Protection Law (aka, the Lei Geral de Proteção de Dados and referred to as the “LGPD” in the Portuguese acronym) appeared ready to go into effect in August 2020. However, Brazil has recently and rapidly become a hot spot for COVID-19. On April 3, 2020, as a result of the healthcare crisis caused by COVID-19, the Brazilian Senate approved Bill No. 1179/2020. This emergency measure postpones the effective date for the LGPD to January 2021, with sanctions and penalties enforceable only after August 2021. The Brazilian Senate validated its emergency measure by asserting that businesses should not be burdened by having to dedicate resources for privacy compliance as they navigate the crisis caused by COVID-19. Bill No. 1179/2020 is now awaiting approval by the Brazilian House of Representatives.


Continue Reading Brazil Postpones Enforcement of New Privacy Law in Response to COVID-19

As the majority of states execute stay at home orders to curb the effects of COVID-19, businesses (and educational institutions) have had to set up ways for employees and students to work remotely. As we have discussed before, companies and employees must make sure both company and employee data is secure while working on home networks and remote devices. Employee use of video conference software is no different. In an effort to keep employees connected and working efficiently, many businesses and educational institutions have had to adopt video conference software in an expedited fashion. This can be seen by looking at Zoom, a video and audio conferencing software. At the end of December 2019, Zoom had approximately 10 million daily meeting participants. Now, in just over several months, Zoom has reached 200 million daily meeting participants. While a useful and effective tool, Zoom has also experienced some challenges with security.  Even in these unique, difficult, and fast moving situations, the Zoom experience stresses the importance of still following best practices in all use of technology to process your company’s data.
Continue Reading COVID-19 Bulletin: Recent Zoom Security Issues Serve as a Cautionary Tale for Businesses in Times of Crisis (and not)

While hardly a new topic for anyone doing business with the government, current events and the challenges of COVID-19 provide a cautionary tale and proactive reminder that doing business with the government carries with the burden of ensuring applicable data privacy and security protections are in place.  As companies consider existing relationships with the U.S. government, or potentially pursuing new business with the U.S. government in responding to current challenges, we thought it a good time to provide a high-level summary of what to expect.

All organizations store, maintain, and process data to some extent.  However, organizations that contract with the federal government may also be storing controlled unclassified information (“CUI”).  The federal government requires that CUI be protected from public disclosure; or other unauthorized use.  Protection of CUI in nonfederal systems and organizations is important to federal agencies and can directly affect the ability of the federal government to successfully conduct its essential missions and functions. For example, over the last decade, cyber criminals have increasingly targeted contractor organizations to extract information in an attempt to weaken the federal government’s supply chain. Accordingly, companies can expect to see an emphasis on security of CUI when contracting with the federal government as they process CUI and other types of data on the government’s behalf, whether directly as a prime contractor or subcontractor to a prime contractor of the government.


Continue Reading COVID-19 Bulletin: Dreaming of a government contract? Neglecting data security can be a nightmare.

As we discussed before, educational institutions are closing campuses and are meeting legal obligations to educate their students by conducting online schooling. Now, some school districts across the country are banning teachers from using Zoom for online schooling during the COVID-19 pandemic due to security and privacy issues surrounding the videoconferencing app.  Reported cases of classroom “Zoombombings” included an incident where hackers broke into a class meeting and displayed a swastika on students’ screens, which led the FBI to issue a public warning about Zoom’s security vulnerabilities. New York City School District and Nevada Clark Public Schools disabled Zoom access, while schools in Utah and Washington State are reassessing its use at the time of this posting.

Amid the raised safety concerns, Zoom responded and advised schools to protect video calls with passwords and to lock down meeting security with currently available privacy features in the software. On March 18, 2020, Zoom added a privacy policy specific for K-12 schools and districts stating that it is “designed to reflect our compliance” with student privacy laws and also posted best practices for teachers to use.


Continue Reading COVID-19 Bulletin: ZOOM Challenges Provide Timely Reminder about Need for Diligence in Managing Privacy and Security and Student Data

The COVID-19 outbreak has ignited a frenzy of scamming attempts as about 90% of Americans are ordered to stay at home and are navigating how to work remotely and keep themselves and their loved ones safe. Our recent bulletin discussed attempts bad actors are using to try to steal personal information through email phishing attacks and ransomware, as well as efforts to ransack bank accounts through donations to fake charities and orders for goods that never arrive. Government officials warn
Continue Reading COVID-19 Bulletin: Avoiding Stimulus Check Scams as CARES Kicks In

With at least 70% of American schools shutting down, and others, if not all, to follow, school and millions of parents are faced with unprecedented challenges managing the children’s education from children’s homes through online schooling. Online schooling or “distance learning” presents not only operational and technical challenges of its own, but also presents concerns and challenges to properly protecting the privacy and security of student information. Even in view of a pandemic and emergency conditions, schools and online education providers are still required to meet legal obligations under various laws and implement best practices to not only meet the laws’ requirements but also to foster a secure environment for students to learn. The following provides a summary of the applicable federal and state laws impacting online learning, followed by general best practices.

Continue Reading COVID-19 Bulletin: Online Schooling Data Privacy Concerns and Best Practices During the Pandemic

On Thursday, March 26, 2020, the Senate passed the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economy Security Act (the “CARES Act”), which provides economic relief for individuals, businesses and industries affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. In addition, some provisions specifically relate to nascent privacy and data security concerns to be addressed both during and after the pandemic:

  • Financial Assistance for Training: Qualifying small businesses and minority owned businesses may apply for financial assistance in the form of grants to cover training and advising for employees on risks of and mitigation of cybersecurity threats in remote customer service or telework practices. The economic landscape following the COVID-19 pandemic will highlight businesses’ increased reliance upon technology, and the nascent need for increased attention to data security education. The financial assistance available to small and minority-owned businesses provides a great opportunity for companies to get ahead of the curve with respect to myriad information security threats.
  • Credit Reporting: The Fair Credit Reporting Act is revised so that furnishers of consumer and payment information, who make an accommodation with respect to one or more payments on a consumer’s account or credit obligation, must report the account or obligation as “current,” unless it was delinquent prior to the accommodation.
  • Public Health Service Act Amended to Conform with HIPAA: The Public Health Service Act is amended to include breach notification and consent requirements consistent with HIPAA. In addition, within one year after the date of enactment, the Secretary of Health and Human Services shall update 45 C.F.R 164.520 so that covered entities and entities creating or maintaining records relating to substance abuse education, training, treatment, and research shall provide easily understandable notices of privacy practices. As a result, some entities not currently regulated by HIPAA will need to adapt to some of the HIPAA requirements related to breach notification and notice of privacy practices.
  • Cybersecurity & Infrastructure Security Agency: $9 million is allocated for supply chain and information analysis, as well as impacted critical infrastructure coordination.
  • Funding for Public Health Surveillance: $500 million is allocated for public health data surveillance and analytics infrastructure modernization.


Continue Reading COVID-19 Bulletin: CARES Act Provides Attention to Privacy & Data Security Precautions

In a letter sent earlier this month, a group representing more than 30 companies, trade associations and various industries asked the California Attorney General if enforcement of the California Consumer Privacy Act could be postponed. Concerned with the business impacts and reprioritization related to COVID-19, the association asked the Attorney General to delay enforcement from July 2020 until January 2021. The association stated that companies scrambling to respond to COVID-19 would need more time to comply with the various
Continue Reading COVID-19 Bulletin: California Attorney General: CCPA Enforcement Will Not Be Delayed Due to COVID-19