Archive: July 2022

1
UK Government publishes new proposed data protection law
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New World tech fall victim to Old World tricks
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Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus pledges sweeping data privacy reforms

UK Government publishes new proposed data protection law

By Claude-Étienne Armingaud, Nóirín McFadden and Keisha Phippen

The UK Government has finally published its highly anticipated Data Protection and Digital Information Bill (the Bill), marking the first significant post-Brexit change to the UK’s data protection regime. Following Brexit, the UK continued following the EU General Data Protection Regulation, incorporated into UK law as the UK GDPR, and the UK implementation of the EU ePrivacy Directive, the Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations 2003 (PECR), also remained in force.

The Bill is only at the start of the legislative process, and it remains to be seen how it will develop if it is amended during its passage through Parliament, but early indications are that it represents more of an evolution than a revolution in the UK regime. That will come as a relief to businesses that transfer personal data from the EU to the UK, because it reduces the risk that the EU might rescind the UK’s adequacy status.

For a start, the Bill actually preserves the UK GDPR, its enabling legislation the Data Protection Act 2018, and the PECR, because it is drafted as an amending act rather than a completely new legislative instrument. This does not contribute to user-friendliness, as interpreting UK data protection requirements will require a great deal of cross-referencing across texts.

The more eye-catching proposed changes in the Bill include:

  • The inclusion of a list of “legitimate interests” that will automatically qualify as being covered by the lawful basis in UK GDPR Article 6(e).
  • Some limitations on data subject access requests, such as the possibility of refusing “vexatious or excessive” requests.
  • More exemptions from the requirement to obtain consent to cookies.
  • Much higher fees for breach of PECR.

The Bill will now progress through various Parliamentary stages over the coming months in order to become law.

New World tech fall victim to Old World tricks

By Cameron Abbott, Rob Pulham and Dadar Ahmadi-Pirshahid

OpenSea have reported a breach whereby email addresses registered with the site have been shared with an unauthorised third party.

For landlubbers, OpenSea is the world’s largest marketplace for non-fungible tokens (NFTs).

The Head of Security at OpenSea identified an employee of OpenSea’s third party email delivery vendor as the source of the breach. The employee reportedly misused their access privileges to download and share the list of the site’s registered email addresses with an external party.

People who have shared an email address with OpenSea, such as subscribers to the site’s newsletter, are warned to remain vigilant about attempts by malicious parties to impersonate communications from OpenSea.

OpenSea has dealt with several security incidents this year. Only a month ago, a former OpenSea product manager was arrested and is reportedly the first person to have been charged in connection with a digital asset insider trading scheme. The product manager’s responsibilities included deciding which NFTs would be featured on the site’s homepage, which he allegedly used for his own financial gain. When OpenSea had discovered his conduct in September 2021, OpenSea requested and accepted the product manager’s resignation. Immediately afterwards, OpenSea commissioned a third party review of the incident and implemented the review’s recommendations to strengthen their existing policies.

In May this year, OpenSea’s Discord server was hacked. Just a few months earlier, 254 NFTs valued at around $1.7million USD were stolen through what appear to have been phishing attacks. OpenSea has reportedly reimbursed the victims.

These incidences highlight the status of NFT marketplaces as high value targets for malicious actors and reveals that many of the security vulnerabilities faced in the ‘old’ world of cyber technology remain a threat in the new world of blockchain and NFTs.

Once again, these incidents serve as a reminder for organisations to develop effective cyber security risk management, which requires an approach that encompasses all security vulnerabilities and that includes mechanisms governing employee access and use of sensitive information.

Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus pledges sweeping data privacy reforms

By Cameron Abbott, Rob Pulham and Hugo Chow

Newly sworn-in Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus has announced that there is a range of “sweeping reforms” that are needed to be made to Australia’s privacy laws, and that he is committed to making these changes during the government’s first term in parliament.

Mr Dreyfus’ department is currently reviewing the feedback it has received from its discussion paper around the current review of the Privacy Act 1988 (Cth) (Privacy Act). Mr Dreyfus said that “Everyone agrees that the Commonwealth Privacy Act is out of date and in need of reform for the digital age”, and that he is hoping to bring a final report of reform proposals into the public domain in the coming months.

Privacy practitioners have for years been anticipating some level of reform as the winds of change have been blowing, but it has not been easy to predict what may change, or when. Proposed changes include strengthening individuals’ privacy rights, including creating a direct cause of action or statutory right for breaches of privacy laws; introducing specific codes for certain industries; and increasing maximum penalties which are significantly out of step with international jurisdictions and with other key Australian business laws.

However such changes are not likely to be welcomed by all, even if “everyone agrees” the Privacy Act is out of date and in need of reform, with business groups opposed to areas of proposed reform such as allowing individuals to bring claims directly against companies.

It is a fascinating precursor to what may become hotly contested reforms with significant impact on how businesses engage with their customers. It may be hard to tell but privacy nerds are on the edge of our seats as the reforms, much talked about, move a step closer to taking shape. There’s never been a better time to start paying attention.

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