For only the second time in its history (following the $4.3 million Cignet case) the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Office of Civil Rights (OCR) imposed civil money penalties (CMPs) on a company for violating the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability (HIPAA) Privacy Rule.

Lincare, Inc. (Lincare), a home health provider, was required to pay $239,800 in CMPs after an HHS Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) found that the undisputed evidence in the case established that Lincare violated HIPAA because it did not implement policies and procedures to safeguard records containing its patients’ protected health information (PHI).

The OCR investigation began when an individual complained to OCR that a Lincare employee left behind documents containing the PHI of 278 patients when the employee moved residences. According to the ALJ, Lincare had inadequate policies and procedures in place to safeguard PHI taken offsite even though employees regularly removed material from the business premises. Further evidence suggested that Lincare had an unwritten policy requiring certain employees to store PHI in their own vehicles for extended periods of time.


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Yesterday, the DoD published an Interim Rule that, if finalized as drafted, would expand the already onerous requirements of the DFARS Safeguarding Clause to a broader array of potentially 10,000 defense contractors.  Citing “recent high-profile breaches of federal information,” the DoD’s Interim Rule emphasizes the need for clear, effective, and consistent cybersecurity protections in its contracts.  The Interim Rule proposes to significantly expand the scope of covered information and to require subcontractors to report cyber incidents directly to the DoD (in addition to prime contractors).  Together, these changes will likely increase the scope of potential liability for government contractors and subcontractors who fail to implement adequate cybersecurity measures.

The Interim Rule seeks to enhance cybersecurity protections primarily by expanding the application of the DFARS Safeguarding Clause, which was once itself a heated point of debate.  Currently, the DFARS Safeguarding Clause imposes two sets of requirements on covered defense contractors.  First, they must implement “adequate security” on certain information systems, typically by implementing dozens of specified security controls.  Second, they must report various cyber incidents to the DoD within 72 hours of their discovery.  These requirements, however, apply only to information systems housing “unclassified controlled technical information” (UCTI), which is generally defined as controlled technical or scientific information that has a military or space application. 

The Interim Rule would expand that application to information systems that possess, store, or transmit “covered defense information” (CDI).  CDI would encompass UCTI, meaning that most contractors subject to the DFARS Safeguarding Clause would remain subject to the Interim Rule.  But CDI goes beyond the DFARS Safeguarding Clause by also including information critical to operational security, export controlled information, and “any other information,  marked or otherwise identified in the contract, that requires safeguarding or dissemination controls pursuant to and consistent with law, regulations, and Government policies.”  Significantly, the Interim Rule lists “privacy” and “proprietary business information” as examples of the latter, leaving many covered contractors to wonder exactly how far the definition of “covered defense information” goes.  To keep up with its new application, the Interim Rule would change the name of Clause 252.204-7012 from “Safeguarding Unclassified Controlled Technical Information” to “Safeguarding Covered Defense Information and Cyber Incident Reporting.”


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In conjunction with the 2015 American Bar Association annual State of Criminal Justice publication, Louisa Marion and I have published a new chapter on “Digital Privacy and E-Discovery in Government Investigations and Criminal Litigation.” The article provides an in-depth look at many of the current and cutting edge issues raised by digital privacy

Litigation and regulation surrounding privacy and cybersecurity is continuously developing, both within the government and the private sector.  This digest summarizes the most notable events in data security this week.

Privacy Advocates Quit Facial Recognition Talks with NTIA

After 16 months of working with with the National Telecommunications & Information Administration, nine privacy and consumer groups withdrew from discussions regarding the creation of a voluntary code of conduct for companies using facial recognition technology.  The groups were unable to reach a consensus with the NTIA over the level of consumer approval that should be required for the use of facial recognition technology.
[Talks with NTIA]

LastPass Data Breach

Password management company LastPass revealed on June 15th that unauthorized users hacked into its system and accessed users’ email addresses, password reminders, and other authentication information.  LastPass has assured users that data vaults were not exposed.
[LastPass]

LinkedIn Settles Proposed Email Harvesting Class Action for $13M

LinkedIn agreed to pay $13M to settle a proposed class action suit alleging that the company accessed users’ email contacts without permission to send out LinkedIn invitations.  LinkedIn also agreed to change its disclosure language related to email account access and invitations to connections.
[LinkedIn]


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