As the sun sets on 2015, but before it rises again in the New Year, we predict that, in the realm of cyber and data security, 2016 will become known as the “Rise of the Regulators.” Regulators across numerous industries and virtually all levels of government will be brandishing their cyber enforcement and regulatory badges and announcing: “We’re from the Government and we’re here to help.”
The Federal Trade Commission will continue to lead the charge in 2016 as it has for the last several years. Pursuing its mission to protect consumers from unfair trade practices, including from unauthorized disclosures of personal information, and with more than 55 administrative consent decrees and other actions booked so far, the FTC (for now) remains the most experienced cop on the beat. As we described earlier this year, the FTC arrives with bolstered judicial-enforcement authority following the Third Circuit’s decision in the Wyndham Hotel case. Notwithstanding the relatively long list of administrative actions and its published guidance – businesses that are hacked and that lose consumer data, are at risk of attracting the attention of FTC cops and of proving that their cyber-related systems, acts and practices were “reasonable.”
But the FTC is not alone. In electronic communications, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in 2015 meted out $30 million in fines to telecom and cable providers, including to AT&T ($25 million) and Cox Communications ($595K). And this agency, increasingly known for its enforcement activism, may have just begun. Reading its regulatory authority broadly, the FCC has asserted a mandate to take “such actions as are necessary to prevent unauthorized access” to customers’ personally identifiable information. This proclamation, combined with the enlistment of the FCC’s new cyber lawyer/computer scientist wunderkind to lead that agency’s cyber efforts, places another burly cop on the cyber beat.
The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) will be patrolling the securities and financial services industries. Through its Office of Compliance Inspections and Examinations (OCIE), the SEC is assessing cyber preparedness in the securities industry, including investment firms’ ability to protect broker-dealer and investment adviser customer information. It has commenced at least oneenforcement action based on the agency’s “Safeguards Rule” (Rule 30(a) of Regulation S‑P), which applies the privacy provisions in Title V of the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act (GLBA) to all registered broker-dealers, investment advisers, and investment companies. With criminals hacking into networks and stealing customer and other information from financial services and other companies, expect more SEC investigations and enforcement actions in 2016.
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Credit: JDSUPRA BUSINESS ADVISOR