On December 1, 2022, the Office for Civil Rights (OCR) at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) published a bulletin warning that commonly used website technologies, including cookies, pixels, and session replay, may result in the impermissible disclosure of Protected Health Information (“PHI”) to third parties in violation of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (“HIPAA”). The bulletin advises that “[r]egulated entities are not permitted to use tracking technologies in a manner that would result in impermissible disclosures of Protected Health Information (“PHI”) to tracking technology vendors or any other violations of the HIPAA Rules.” The bulletin is issued amidst a wider national and international privacy landscape that is increasingly focused on regulating the collection and use of personal information through web-based technologies and software that may not be readily apparent to the user.

Continue Reading HHS Warns HIPAA Covered Entities and Business Associates That Use of Website Cookies, Pixels and Other Tracking Technology May Violate HIPAA Rules

Recent decisions from the European Union (EU) have placed renewed focus on the use of common cookies used on ecommerce and other websites used by consumers and employees and transfers of personal data collected through cookies to the United States. The EU Data Protection Authorities (DPAs) found that the use of widely used website technologies (i.e., cookies and java script) to automatically collect identifiers from the users’ devices or through their use of internet protocols (e.g., IP addresses) resulted in the collection of personal data. The DPAs further found that the subsequent transfer of this data to Google servers located in the United States violated EU cross-border data transfer requirements because there were inadequate safeguards under the Schrems II decision invalidating the EU-US Privacy Shield. One notable impact of the decisions is to dismiss the adequacy of encryption technologies where the service provider (such as Google) has access to the cryptographic key and can be compelled to surrender it in order for the data to be decrypted and read by U.S. surveillance authorities. Consideration of the impact of these decisions is critically important for ecommerce and other websites operating in the EU, as well as more generally for organizations that transfer personal data of consumers and employees to the U.S.

Continue Reading Cookies Resulting in Cross Border Transfers of Personal Data to the United States Draw Scrutiny from European Data Privacy Regulators