American Privacy Laws in a Global Context: Predictions for 2018

[Originally published as the May 2018 Cover Story: Data Privacy and the Law – American Privacy Laws in a Global Context: Predictions for 2018, by Lily Li, in Orange County Lawyer Magazine, May 2018, Vol. 60 No.5.]

Cybersecurity Attacks Are Inevitable

Cybersecurity attacks are on the rise. According to the non-profit organization, Identity Theft Resource Center, there were over 1,579 publicly reported data breaches in 2017, compared to 1,091 in 2016, and 780 in 2015. Not only are these cyberattacks happening at high-profile companies like Equifax, Uber, and Yahoo, they are increasingly happening to businesses of all sizes. Any entity able to pay a ransom is now a potential target.

Law firms are no exception. In 2017, DLA Piper was hit with a “wiper-ware” attack, following previous email hacks of Cravath and Weil Gotshal in 2016. Earlier this year, UK-based cybersecurity firm, RepKnight, reported that almost 800,000 UK law firm email addresses and affiliated passwords were available on the dark web, with over 50% of these credentials posted in the last six months. These law firms did not just include local UK firms, but global law firms with a UK presence.

Given these alarming statistics, what should legislators do?

In the EU, Canada, and China, legislators have decided to develop and implement national data privacy and cybersecurity frameworks: GDPR, PIPEDA, and CSL respectively. The United States, by contrast, still relies upon a patchwork of sectoral laws and inconsistent state rules. This article will take a brief look at developments in the EU, Canada, and China, discuss the current United States privacy framework, and predict likely developments in U.S. privacy law over the next year.

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