There’s a certain irony in the FTC’s record-setting $20 million settlement with Vivint Smart Home, a national seller of smart home technology platforms, including security devices and monitoring services. One purpose of the company’s products is to help residents ensure that people at their front door are who they say they are. But according to the FTC, Vivint engaged in some identity deception of its own.
Blog Posts Tagged with Privacy and Security
For businesses in the middle of a global pandemic, there’s no such thing as “business as usual.” The percentage of Americans working remotely has grown substantially, now reportedly up to 33% of the U.S. workforce. Accompanying that seismic shift have been increased security threats to data, with one analysis reporting that over 36 billion online records were exposed in the first half of 2020 alone. Consumers whose lives have been upended by identity theft are paying close attention to how corporations are responding.
Advances in artificial intelligence (AI) technology promise to revolutionize our approach to medicine, finance, business operations, media, and more. But research has highlighted how apparently “neutral” technology can produce troubling outcomes – including discrimination by race or other legally protected classes. For example, COVID-19 prediction models can help health systems combat the virus through efficient allocation of ICU beds, ventilators, and other resources.
Have you marked your calendar for April 29, 2021, to attend Bringing Dark Patterns to Light: An FTC Workshop? The virtual event will examine digital “dark patterns,” potentially deceptive or unfair user interfaces on websites and mobile apps. In addition to your participation, the FTC is asking for research and public comments on topics related to the workshop.
This time last year, we all were adjusting to a new normal. As the pandemic took hold, the FTC kicked into high gear on COVID-19-related issues, while continuing its work on other fronts, too. The just-announced 2020 Annual Highlights reflect important enforcement actions, policy initiatives, and outreach efforts undertaken in the past year.
It’s like a scene from an Indiana Jones movie. Our hero enters a cave in search of treasure and every labyrinthine turn poses another unexpected hazard – trip-wired blades, runaway boulders, and snakes (“I hate snakes”). But we’re not talking about a rollicking adventure flick. We’re describing the experience of many online shoppers as they navigate some companies’ websites to avoid digital danger – for example, extra items showing up in a consumer’s cart, unauthorized charges, or the unintended disclosure of personal information.
How many reports did the Consumer Sentinel Network receive in 2020? What percentage of those related to fraud? And what was the most common scam that people reported? The answers: 4.7 million, 46%, and imposter scams.
Among the challenges that COVID-19 has brought, add a higher risk of identity theft to the mix. In the past year, we had about 1.4 million reports of identity theft, double the number from 2019. Repeatedly, identity thieves targeted government funds earmarked to help individuals and small businesses hard hit financially by the pandemic. Find out about identity theft in the age of COVID-19.
Today we are announcing another enforcement action seeking to hold companies responsible for consumer injury caused by others or in which they directly participated in the misconduct. In this action against Seed Consulting, we allege, among other things, that Seed assisted and facilitated several deceptive schemes that cheated consumers out of thousands of dollars.
Flo Health pitched its Flo Period & Ovulation Tracker as a way for millions of women to “take full control of [their] health.” But according to the FTC, despite express privacy claims, the company took control of users’ sensitive fertility data and shared it with third parties – a broken promise that left consumers feeling “outraged,” “victimized,” and “violated.” Read on for details, including a notable feature in the proposed settlement.
Aside from obligatory shots of the Grand Canyon or the Leaning Tower of Pisa, many photos that consumers want to keep feature the faces of friends and family. Using a service like Everalbum’s Ever app to store photos and videos in the cloud is one way to free up space on consumers’ devices. But what was Everalbum doing behind the scenes after consumers entrusted the company with those images?
To meet the needs of consumers who are injured or face a medical emergency while traveling, Scottsdale-based SkyMed International sells air evacuation plans and other services. The FTC’s action against SkyMed also involves consumer injury, but not of the fractured-femur-in-France variety. According to the FTC, SkyMed put consumers’ sensitive information at risk of compromise by failing to employ a robust data security program.
To quote studio head Samuel Goldwyn’s famous malaprop, an oral contract isn’t worth the paper it’s printed on. The same can be said of a written security policy if a company doesn’t carry out its provisions.
One digit can make a lot of difference. Would the Proclaimers have walked 501 miles? How effective was Love Potion #10? Did the Beatles ask would you still need me, would you still feed me when I’m 65? With so much attention on Section 5 of the FTC Act, some may overlook another important provision of the statute: Section 6(b).
Imagine turning on your computer one morning to discover you and your employees are locked out of your system. A threatening message appears on the screen demanding a ransom if you ever want to see your data again. You check your backups and they’ve been destroyed. Your business is at a standstill, losing money with every passing minute. It may sound like a nightmare, but for many companies, a ransomware attack is all too real. And even more disturbing is that reported ransomware attacks have increased dramatically since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.
If you haven’t been following The 12 Days of Consumer Protection on the FTC’s Consumer Blog, you’re in for a treat. The puns are terrific, the visuals are sharable on social media, and the holiday-themed tips are a thoughtful way to let far-flung friends and family know you’re thinking of them.
Cult classic The Big Lebowski proves that mistaken identity can be entertaining on film. But for people looking to rent a house or apartment, it wasn’t so entertaining when tenant background reports about them provided by California company AppFolio included someone else’s convictions and evictions.
What are the biggest risks of parking? A dinged door? A bruised bumper? For consumers victimized by the pernicious practice of debt parking, the impact on their financial health can be devastating. And if you’re a debt collector who engages in debt parking, an FTC settlement with Midwest Recovery Systems suggests you could face law enforcement action for violations of the FTC Act, the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, and the Fair Credit Reporting Act.