The Fin To Fine Print? New Compliance Policies Needed For Law Firms & Employees

Is this finally the end of the fine print?

As if most people didn’t already know, consumer data is at risk. With so many mobile devices today, data privacy compliance—and the “check here if you agree” box—has become almost impossible for companies to legitimately sustain.

Fine print can hardly be called “compliance” or “protection” anymore. At least, that’s what a subtly-released report would have you believe.

WIK-Consult released a report after being commissioned by regulators to review existing research on the “effectiveness of different approaches to informing consumers about proposed uses of their data, and securing their engagement and consent,” writes Out-Law.com. The report notes that there are many legitimate reasons why personal data from consumers is needed to process certain transactions online, from shopping to banking. While these online services use privacy policies to confirm consumer consent, the majority of people—the report finds—do not actually read the fine print.

Furthermore, as smartphones, tablets, and laptop computers abound, so do the many chances to lose control over consent or even confidentiality of private data.

“Although data flows in the [Internet of Things] do not differ fundamentally from the data flows observed in any connected environment, the sheer increase in the number of connected devices multiplies the data that becomes accessible and analysable,” quotes Out-Law.com of WIK-Consult.

“If expectations about the take-up of such connected devices are correct, online tracking of personal data is likely to become seamless across all areas of people’s lives.”

The report concluded rather bleakly that this problem of the de-privatization of personal information on the Internet is only likely to get worse as consumers become increasingly unaware of the dangers of multiple mobile devices.

“Besides the increase in the amount of data, one may also expect that data gathering, aggregation and analysis will become even more subtle as machines talk to machines without (almost) any human intervention. Thus, consumers have even less opportunity to learn about data-gathering practices. In some cases, they may not even be aware that the device they are currently using is actually connected to the internet,” continued the WIK-Consult report.

In the end, WIK-Consult offers no solutions to what is perceives as a problem of (1) legitimate compliance with privacy policies, as consumers rarely know what clicking the box “yes” refers to; and (2) lack of general knowledge of how to protect personal information online and across multiple technologies.

Luckily, law firms specialize in compliance and knowledge-empowerment.

In fact, about 20 to 25 percent of U.S. law schools already offer a course in information privacy law (via LinkedIn).

And, according to some experts like Daniel J. Solove, John Marshall Harlan Research Professor of Law at George Washington University Law School, more schools should follow suit.

Law firms are expanding their services in this area as more and more businesses need help crafting their compliance policies (as previously mentioned). In addition, more and more individual consumers need protecting from breaches (think, the Walmart and Sony hack).

Is your firm prepared to branch out in this area or train its associates appropriately?

If you haven’t already, now is a good time of year for your firm to reevaluate its own compliance policies—not just information protection, but also employment and wellness program compliance.

In fact, all eyes are focused on the latter with the EEOC filing suit against multiple employers over their wellness programs, a new EEOC proposed rule on how the ADA applies to wellness plans, and critical compliance issues surrounding the ACA and the rules for wellness.

All this legislative attention makes it more crucial than ever that you check every aspect of the wellness plan of your firm and its clients to assure that they’re on the right side of the law.

Wellness plans offer obvious benefits to the employee—better health—and benefits to the employer—lower costs and reduced absenteeism. It seems like a win-win for everyone. But there are a host of legal issues to be aware of:

1. Privacy rights
2. Discrimination liability
3. Tax surprises
4. Federal regulations; ADA, ACA, HIPAA, ERISA, GINA, FMLA and FLSA

So take the Center for Competitive Management’s webinar “Wellness Programs and the Law: Your HIPAA / ACA / ADA / EEOC Compliance Checkup,” on Thursday, July 30, 2015 from 2:00 PM To 3:15 PM Eastern time.

In just 75 minutes, you will learn:

  • Why use Wellness Programs?
    • Improved Employee Health and Productivity
    • Can Wellness Programs help avoid the Cadillac Tax?
  • Wellness Programs and the Affordable Care Act (ACA)
  • Wellness Programs and the ACA Regulatory Framework from HHS, IRS and Labor
  • Structuring Wellness Programs for effectiveness and to maintain “voluntary” participation
    • EEOC Litigations Challenging Wellness Programs
    • What you need to know about the ADA and wellness programs
    • Does a penalty make a wellness program non voluntary?
    • What you need to know about GINA and wellness programs
  • Recent Congressional Wellness Program Hearings and Legislation
  • Other state and federal laws that may have an impact, such as FMLA and workers’ compensation

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