Compiled by: Richard Sheinis, Esq.

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Featured on Hospitality Upgrade Magazine’s Tech Talk.
Written by: Sam Crochet, Esq.

In my June column, we discussed why the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) matters to the hospitality industry and the technical/organizational steps members should take to comply with the regulation. Practically speaking, any U.S. company desirous of European customers must comply with the GDPR as of May 25, 2018, or risk facing penalties as high as 4 percent of global revenue.

In this segment, we move on to two key requirements of the GDPR that supervisory authorities will be monitoring (and enforcing) closely: consent and breach notification.

1. Changes to How Hospitality Members Must Obtain “Consent” to Collect Data

The GDPR requires companies to give European consumers the chance to “opt in” to data collection by a statement or clear affirmative action. Presentation of the “opt in” request must be clear and concise. This is a stark shift from the former EU regime and the opposite of many U.S. state/federal laws. The rule requires major overhaul in written policies and customer forms (both digital and paper). For example, a hotel’s online booking page displaying pre-ticked boxes for consenting to the collection of names, email addresses, and telephone numbers will no longer suffice. Likewise, a hotel’s collection of personal information based on consumer inactivity or silence in the face of a privacy notice does not trigger consent. Instead, the consumer must be given the chance to express affirmative action at either ticking an empty box or providing some other explicit consent such as submitting a signature. Further, for those companies hoping to gain opt-in consent through electronic signatures that succeed boiler plate language, the GDPR requires organizations provide consent requests that are closely linked to the processing activity through clear affirmative action regarding that specific collection practice. Similarly, when data processing has multiple purposes, consent must be obtained for each purpose (i.e. marketing versus customer service).

Additionally, the GDPR gives consumers the right to withdraw consent at any time. Companies must notify consumers of this right before obtaining consent and, once consent is withdrawn, consumers can request their personal information be erased.

2. Changes to the Data Breach Notification Rules for Many Hospitality Members

Perhaps no section of the GDPR reflects increased consumer protectionism as much as the new data breach notification rules. Hospitality members under the GDPR will face far greater exposure to costly breach reporting requirements for EU citizens’ data than with U.S. consumers since there is more “personal data” under the GDPR. “Personal data” is any information relating to an identifiable natural person. This could feasibly be everything from names, telephone numbers, email addresses and photographs to IP addresses, online cookies, and mobile device IDs. Less restrictive U.S. state/federal laws often require “personal data” to include a full name and a social security, driver’s license, or financial account number. Given this increased exposure under the GDPR, hospitality members should immediately analyze the scope of the information they collect to determine how vulnerable they are to the GDPR’s definition of “personal data.” Depending on what data is being collected, companies will need to immediately reform their policies pertaining to breach response and subsequent notifications. On a side note, it is highly advisable to practice “pseudonymization” as data is only “personal” under the GDPR if it can be linked to an identifiable person. By de-humanizing information, a company can often avoid the obligations of the GDPR, costly breach reporting requirements, and the public relation storms that often follow a data breach.

In the event of a data breach involving EU residents’ data, U.S. companies will have to report the event to certain European Supervisory Authorities within 72 hours of obtaining notice of the breach. This is more precise than many state laws, which generally include a “reasonable time period” or “without undue delay” standard. Further, whereas notification to the European Supervisory Authorities turns on whether there is a general “risk” to the consumer, the obligation to provide notification to consumers themselves turns on whether there is “high risk” to the consumer. Thus, when reviewing or developing a breach response procedure, hospitality members under the GDPR need to factor whether a breach’s risk to a consumer meets this high standard, at which point it would have to provide immediate consumer notice. This ambiguity could trouble hospitality members struggling to respond in the hours and/or days following a breach. The GDPR does offer some clarity, indicating “high risk” may incorporate severe vulnerabilities such as threat of identity theft, financial loss, fraud, discrimination, and/or damage to reputation.

GDPR auditors will not smile kindly on U.S. companies seeking loopholes in the law. The highest potential fines will be reserved for companies violating the most basic principles for processing, such as consent or breach notification.

Hospitality members can reduce exposure under the GDPR by performing a full risk assessment starting with the scope and legal significance of their data collection practices. (1) Revising internal policies/procedures to accommodate the GDPR’s consent and notification requirements and (2) tailoring breach response protocol to the timing and risk/high risk test will go a long way toward avoiding a violation and, most importantly, will document the compliance steps members have taken in the event of an EU audit.

Compiled by: Richard Sheinis, Esq.

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Compiled by: Richard Sheinis, Esq.

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Compiled by: Richard Sheinis, Esq.

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Compiled by: Richard Sheinis, Esq.

Cyber Attack Could do as Much Damage as Superstorm Sandy
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… and a marketing stunt to announce that Purple is the first WiFi provider to be compliant under the new General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).

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Featured on Hospitality Upgrade Magazine’s Tech Talk.
Written by: Sam Crochet, Esq.

US companies collect, analyze, and leverage consumer data to optimize efficiency, advertise and, hopefully, increase profits. However, with the rise of data breach incidents, varying laws and consumer demand pressure companies to secure networks, scrutinize vendor usage—such as security of one cloud processor versus another, and be transparent with “collection practices.” Privacy officers and in-house counsels may already understand US data privacy is controlled by a patchwork of state and industry-specific federal laws. However, companies across the hospitality community are (or should be) racing against the clock to satisfy increased requirements of the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which becomes effective May 25, 2018. The GDPR will replace the current Data Protection Directive, which was well-intentioned, but inadequate in light of growing technologies. There are notable changes and increased obligations within the GDPR to which US businesses must adhere or risk huge financial penalties. This if the first of several articles updating readers on why the GDPR matters and what steps members of the hospitality industry should take to comply with the regulation.

The European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation: What Steps Must Members of the Hospitality Industry Take?

1. Who does the GDPR affect?

The law is geographically expansive as it applies to the processing of EU residents’ personal data (name, ID number, reference to a physical, economic, or cultural identity of a person, etc.) regardless of the company/processor’s location. For instance, if a hotel markets its services to EU residents beyond merely having a website, than it will likely be controlled by the GDPR1)GDPR Article 3.. Practically speaking, any organization desirous of European customers—regardless of whether the organization has a European-based office—must comply with the GDPR2)“A Primer on the GDPR: What You Need to Know.” Bowman, Courtney, December 23, 2015.

2. What are the consequences if a company does not comply with the GDP

US companies controlling or processing data of EU residents face increased penalties for violating the new regulation. Fines can reach 4 percent of annual global revenue, or 20 million Euros per violation3)GDPR Article 83(5). It should be noted consumers have a right to judicial remedy against companies and processors under the GDPR.. The regulation also grants European Supervisory Authorities the power to ban a company’s data collection practices altogether4)GDPR Article 58.. Obviously, US companies cannot afford to mishandle security of EU residents’ data. Below, I list some of the GDPR issues/requirements most applicable to the hospitality industry:

  • Stricter Technical and Organizational Security Measures
  • New Data Subject Consent Rules
  • More Demanding Breach Notification Rules; and
  • Vendor Scrutiny and Use of Business Associate Contracts

Stricter Technical and Organizational Security Measures

Unlike some state/federal laws and the current European Data Protection Directive, the GDPR increases the safeguards a company must take to protect customer information against unauthorized access, accidental loss or alteration. The regulation mandates companies implement appropriate technical and organizational measures. “Appropriate” actions include, but are not limited to:

(1) “Encryption” or “Pseudonymization” of personal data—The regulation explicitly names encryption as a technique to avoid improper disclosure of customer information. Encryption software often comes at a higher cost and has its administrative obstacles. As a result, some businesses may instead benefit from “pseudonymization” of personal data. Hospitality members should know the GDPR does not apply to consumer information unrelated to identifiable persons and, further, expressly approves pseudonymization—the concept of removing personal “identifiers” from information to eliminate a link to one’s identity—which would remove data from the scope of the GDPR. Encryption and/or pseudonymization help organizations meet other GDPR requirements as well. For example, depending on the risk of harm, companies must notify European authorities and citizens following a data breach incident (the subject of another article). Since encryption/pseudonymization reduce the risk of harm to EU citizens, companies using these techniques stand a higher chance of avoiding costly reporting obligations.

(2) A contingency plan amidst a technical incident (such as a cyber attack or “ransomware” event)—Companies under the GDPR should have an emergency plan establishing how they will respond and operate during a data breach incident. For example, during a cyber attack on a hotel chain, the hotel should be prepared with a plan employees have practiced so appropriate personnel can (a) identify what data has been compromised, (b) trigger “back up” data for normal business operations, (c) work with the in-house IT team (and potentially an outside forensic specialist) to contain/eradicate an attack, (d) restore operating systems, and (e) examine alongside counsel the various legal obligations arising out of the event.

(3) Utilize regular tests to evaluate effectiveness of technical/organizational security measures—For example, an IT “penetration test” is a simulated attack on a computer network to identify security strengths and weaknesses. Such a tactic assists businesses to identify what software/issues need addressing to improve security. Also, administrative fire drills to test the aforementioned contingency plan will help businesses prepare for a data breach incident5)GDPR Article 32; GDPR Recital 49..

Keep in mind GDPR violations carry heavy penalties that could crush small businesses. Documenting steps you have taken to address the above issues may establish mitigating factors that could go a long way towards dramatically reducing penalties amidst a GDPR audit.

This article only broadly addresses the GDPR’s technical and organizational security requirement. Contact a privacy attorney to analyze the best approach for your organization and to understand the finer points of the GDPR’s technical/organizational requirements.

GDPR Article 3.
“A Primer on the GDPR: What You Need to Know.” Bowman, Courtney, December 23, 2015
GDPR Article 83(5). It should be noted consumers have a right to judicial remedy against companies and processors under the GDPR.
GDPR Article 58.
GDPR Article 32; GDPR Recital 49.

References   [ + ]

1. GDPR Article 3.
2. “A Primer on the GDPR: What You Need to Know.” Bowman, Courtney, December 23, 2015
3. GDPR Article 83(5). It should be noted consumers have a right to judicial remedy against companies and processors under the GDPR.
4. GDPR Article 58.
5. GDPR Article 32; GDPR Recital 49.

Compiled by: Richard Sheinis, Esq.

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Compiled by: Richard Sheinis, Esq.

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Compiled by: Richard Sheinis, Esq.

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