In the UK, a disgruntled employee leaked payroll data for 100,000 employees of a very large supermarket chain to newspapers in order to embarrass the firm after they were disciplined for bad behavior. The courts found that employees have the right to sue the supermarket chain for damages as they were “vicariously responsible” for the acts of their employee.
In contrast, a similar case in the US against Coca Cola had a very different outcome. A Coca Cola employee sold laptops which they were tasked with destroying and these laptops contained personal information of employees. Employees sued, but the courts dismissed all of their claims, saying that Coca Cola could not have known about the rogue employee’s activities.
This case has a few lessons for infosec professionals:
First, if your firm operates in multiple jurisdictions, the laws and norms in these jurisdictions can be very different. When judging risk and formulating policy, work with your legal departments to make sure you understand these differences.
Second, I feel that this case also shows the differences in attitudes to personal information in the US and the rest of the world. It seems like the US does not value individual privacy nearly as much as other countries. Again, if you operate in multiple jurisdictions, you need to keep this in mind.
As the stakes get higher for organizations (for example $20M or 4% of global revenues for each breach of the EU GDPR), these are things we need to worry about. Buy your general counsel a beer and talk it out before you have to deal with a lawsuit.
Now, here is a head scratcher… a circuit court in Virginia has ruled that while law enforcement cannot force you to reveal the passcode for your mobile phone, they CAN force you to unlock your phone with a fingerprint, since a passcode requires you to divulge knowledge while a fingerprint is a form of physical evidence. While this seemingly nonsensical decision is not binding on other courts, it can be used as precedent in future cases. I guess the moral of the story is that you should disable TouchID on your iPhone before embarking on your life of mobile phone assisted crime. Alternatively, you could reboot your iPhone as John Q Law closes in, since TouchID will not work until you have entered your passcode after a reboot.
This article from the Guardian claims that our friends in Redmond are cooperating with the NSA to give the spying agency access to all sorts of cloud based comms and data as part of their 1984-esque PRISM collection program. The haul includes Skype audio, video, and chat messages, which were until recently thought to be resistant to eavesdropping.
It seems that the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) is continuing to extend its push into the regulation of social media in non unionized work places. According to this Morgan Lewis LawFlash, two recent cases (which may end up in the appellate courts) continue the Board’s assault on workplace social media confidentiality policies.
In the first case, involving Costco, the NLRB found that a whole section of the firm’s social media policy dealing with prohibition of posting confidential information to social media platforms was rendered invalid because it included a ban on posting “payroll information,” which the NLRB felt pertains to protected activity under section 8(a)(1) of the Labor Relations Act.
The second case, involving an auto dealer named Knauz, struck down the employer’s social media policy based on the following language:
[c]ourtesy is the responsibility of every employee. Everyone is expected to be courteous, polite and friendly to our customers, vendors and suppliers, as well as to their fellow employees. No one should be disrespectful or use profanity or any other language which injures the image or reputation of the Dealership.
The Board felt that the language would discourage employees from using social media for activities covered under section 7 of the Labor Relations Act, such as organizing a union or having discussions about work conditions.
The lesson? Make sure that your company’s Social Media policy passes muster with your legal team – and make sure your legal team knows about what the NLRB has been up to in this area. Social media has the potential to be an exfiltration vector for your organization’s confidential information; you don’t want to end up with a policy which is thrown out when you need it most.
A while back, I wrote about how US organizations writing social media policies need to beware of the National Labor Relations Board’s requirements that these policies not interfere with the rights of employees to discuss their working conditions or organize unions. At the time of my original post, the NLRB had released a guidance document which raised more questions than it answered. Since then, they have released additional guidance which includes a number of examples of bad policies and explains the specific problems with each. More importantly, it includes a sample policy which is in compliance with NLRB rules and which can be used as a guide in writing (or updating) your company’s social media policy. It is really worth taking a look at this document – many things that any normal, reasonable infosec professional would expect to be acceptable (ie. “don’t post confidential information to social media sites”) are not.
If you are an information professional at a publicly traded company, I would strongly suggest reading a recent blog post by Richard Bejtlich about the SEC’s requirements for the disclosure of cybersecurity breaches. Bejtlich points out that the ramifications of these requirements go well past getting in to hot water with the regulators – they also raise other risks, such as whistleblowing by employees or third parties as well as the potential for shareholder lawsuits when companies do not take the proper steps to secure information (or are perceived as not doing so). Having a conversation about this issue with your General Counsel before an incident occurs makes a lot of sense. All this being said, kudos to the SEC for recognizing the role of cybersecurity in good corporate governance.
As the line between work and personal life becomes thinner and thinner, employee use of social media sites has become a more and more important (and vexing) issue for organizations. Companies are building their brands online, but so are employees. Social Media posts made by employees (on or off the clock) can work to enhance or sully companies’ online reputations. In response, most social media policies include a clause prohibiting employees from making disparaging comments about their employer online. However, these policies may not be legal without a very specific carve out – whoever is responsible for social media policies in your organization should take some time to read this blog post over at the Workplace Privacy Counsel blog.