Over the past few months, many businesses, particularly in the Northeast Region, have been focusing on creating a written information security program (WISP) to comply with Massachusetts identity theft regulations that went into effect March 1, 2010. For many, this has been a significant effort, reaching most, if not all, parts of their organizations. However, it is important to remember that although Massachusetts may be the state with the most comprehensive set of rules for securing personal data, other states have enacted similar protections, and compliance with Massachusetts does NOT necessarily mean compliance with other states.

Consider the following examples:

California. The Civil Code in California states a business that owns or licenses personal information about a California resident must:

implement and maintain reasonable security procedures and practices appropriate to the nature of the information, to protect the personal information from unauthorized access, destruction, use, modification, or disclosure.

For purposes of this requirement, “personal information" means:

an individual’s first name or first initial and his or her last name in combination with any one or more of the following data elements, when either the name or the data elements are not encrypted or redacted:
(A) Social security number.
(B) Driver’s license number or California identification card number.
(C) Account number, credit or debit card number, in combination with any required security code, access code, or password that would permit access to an individual’s financial account.
(D) Medical information.

Similar pretections for medical information exist in Arkansas, but that information is not covered by the rules in Massachusetts. Illinois requires safeguards for certain biometric information, a classification of data also not covered by the Massachusetts regulations.

Oregon. Oregon’s Consumer Identity Theft Protection Act lays out safeguards similar to those in Massachusetts, with some relief for small businesses (those manufacturing businesses with 200 employees or fewer and all other forms of business having 50 employees or fewer). Key is the requirement to implement an “information security program” that contains administrative, technical and physical safeguards.

Administrative safeguards include, for example: 

  1. designating one or more employees to coordinate the program;
  2. identifying reasonably foreseeable internal and external risks;
  3. assessing the sufficiency of data safeguards;
  4. training employees in the program’s practices and procedures;
  5. limiting outside service providers to those maintaining adequate data security safeguards; and
  6. adjusting the program according to business changes or new circumstances.

In New Jersey, regulations are pending that would create similar obligations.

Connecticut. Without specifying the kinds of safeguards, Connecticut requires any person in possession of personal information of another person to:

safeguard the data, computer files and documents containing the information from misuse by third parties, and [ ] destroy, erase or make unreadable such data, computer files and documents prior to disposal.

For purposes of this law, “personal information” includes:

information capable of being associated with a particular individual through one or more identifiers, including, but not limited to, a Social Security number, a driver’s license number, a state identification card number, an account number, a credit or debit card number, a passport number, an alien registration number or a health insurance identification number.

Similar requirements were enacted in other states, including Arkansas, North Carolina, Rhode Island, Texas, and Utah. But note the definition in Connecticut goes beyond the elements of data protected under the Massachusetts regulations.

Service contracts. Some states go a step further, requiring certain provisions be included in contracts between entities and their service providers when the contracts involve the disclosure of a state resident’s personal information from the owner of the information to the service provider. For example, such contracts in Nevada and Maryland must include a provision requiring the person to whom the information is disclosed to implement safeguards to protect that information.

The emergence of state mandates fueled by the continued rapid advancement and increased use of technology suggest a trend that is sure to become a fact of life for businesses operating anywhere in the U.S. Whether the technology is “cloud computing” or “peer-to-peer” software, businesses need to take appropriate steps to protect personal information maintained throughout their organizations.

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Photo of Joseph J. Lazzarotti Joseph J. Lazzarotti

Joseph J. Lazzarotti is a principal in the Berkeley Heights, New Jersey, office of Jackson Lewis P.C. He founded and currently co-leads the firm’s Privacy, Data and Cybersecurity practice group, edits the firm’s Privacy Blog, and is a Certified Information Privacy Professional (CIPP)…

Joseph J. Lazzarotti is a principal in the Berkeley Heights, New Jersey, office of Jackson Lewis P.C. He founded and currently co-leads the firm’s Privacy, Data and Cybersecurity practice group, edits the firm’s Privacy Blog, and is a Certified Information Privacy Professional (CIPP) with the International Association of Privacy Professionals. Trained as an employee benefits lawyer, focused on compliance, Joe also is a member of the firm’s Employee Benefits practice group.

In short, his practice focuses on the matrix of laws governing the privacy, security, and management of data, as well as the impact and regulation of social media. He also counsels companies on compliance, fiduciary, taxation, and administrative matters with respect to employee benefit plans.

Privacy and cybersecurity experience – Joe counsels multinational, national and regional companies in all industries on the broad array of laws, regulations, best practices, and preventive safeguards. The following are examples of areas of focus in his practice:

  • Advising health care providers, business associates, and group health plan sponsors concerning HIPAA/HITECH compliance, including risk assessments, policies and procedures, incident response plan development, vendor assessment and management programs, and training.
  • Coached hundreds of companies through the investigation, remediation, notification, and overall response to data breaches of all kinds – PHI, PII, payment card, etc.
  • Helping organizations address questions about the application, implementation, and overall compliance with European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and, in particular, its implications in the U.S., together with preparing for the California Consumer Privacy Act.
  • Working with organizations to develop and implement video, audio, and data-driven monitoring and surveillance programs. For instance, in the transportation and related industries, Joe has worked with numerous clients on fleet management programs involving the use of telematics, dash-cams, event data recorders (EDR), and related technologies. He also has advised many clients in the use of biometrics including with regard to consent, data security, and retention issues under BIPA and other laws.
  • Assisting clients with growing state data security mandates to safeguard personal information, including steering clients through detailed risk assessments and converting those assessments into practical “best practice” risk management solutions, including written information security programs (WISPs). Related work includes compliance advice concerning FTC Act, Regulation S-P, GLBA, and New York Reg. 500.
  • Advising clients about best practices for electronic communications, including in social media, as well as when communicating under a “bring your own device” (BYOD) or “company owned personally enabled device” (COPE) environment.
  • Conducting various levels of privacy and data security training for executives and employees
  • Supports organizations through mergers, acquisitions, and reorganizations with regard to the handling of employee and customer data, and the safeguarding of that data during the transaction.
  • Representing organizations in matters involving inquiries into privacy and data security compliance before federal and state agencies including the HHS Office of Civil Rights, Federal Trade Commission, and various state Attorneys General.

Benefits counseling experience – Joe’s work in the benefits counseling area covers many areas of employee benefits law. Below are some examples of that work:

  • As part of the Firm’s Health Care Reform Team, he advises employers and plan sponsors regarding the establishment, administration and operation of fully insured and self-funded health and welfare plans to comply with ERISA, IRC, ACA/PPACA, HIPAA, COBRA, ADA, GINA, and other related laws.
  • Guiding clients through the selection of plan service providers, along with negotiating service agreements with vendors to address plan compliance and operations, while leveraging data security experience to ensure plan data is safeguarded.
  • Counsels plan sponsors on day-to-day compliance and administrative issues affecting plans.
  • Assists in the design and drafting of benefit plan documents, including severance and fringe benefit plans.
  • Advises plan sponsors concerning employee benefit plan operation, administration and correcting errors in operation.

Joe speaks and writes regularly on current employee benefits and data privacy and cybersecurity topics and his work has been published in leading business and legal journals and media outlets, such as The Washington Post, Inside Counsel, Bloomberg, The National Law Journal, Financial Times, Business Insurance, HR Magazine and NPR, as well as the ABA Journal, The American Lawyer, Law360, Bender’s Labor and Employment Bulletin, the Australian Privacy Law Bulletin and the Privacy, and Data Security Law Journal.

Joe served as a judicial law clerk for the Honorable Laura Denvir Stith on the Missouri Court of Appeals.