As we previously reported, since 2017 employees have filed dozens of employment class actions claiming violations of Illinois’ 2008 Biometric Information Privacy Act (“BIPA”). In short, BIPA protects the privacy rights of employees, customers, and others in Illinois against the improper collection, usage, storage, transmission, and destruction of biometric information, including biometric identifiers, such as retina or iris scans, fingerprints, voiceprints, and scans of face or hand geometry. Before collecting such biometric information, BIPA requires an entity to: (1) provide written notice to each individual of the collection; (2) obtain a signed release from each individual for the collection of biometric data; and (3) make available a policy that contains a retention schedule and guidelines for the permanent destruction of the biometric data.

One of the unresolved legal issues was whether an entity’s failure to comply with BIPA’s requirements, absent an actual injury, was sufficient to sustain a claim under that law. On January 25, 2019, the Illinois Supreme Court weighed in on this issue in Rosenbach v. Six Flags Entertainment Corp., holding that mere collection of an individual’s biometric information may be enough to state a claim under BIPA.

In Rosenbach, a parent sued on behalf of her child after he was fingerprinted entering a Six Flags theme park. Neither the parent nor the child signed a release, Six Flags did not provide a written notice provided to the child or the parent, and Six Flags did not have a publicly available policy regarding the retention or destruction of the biometric information. Nonetheless, there have been no known data breaches on Six Flags systems, and the complaint did not allege any other harm to the parent or her son.

The Illinois Supreme Court found that the legislative intent behind BIPA dictated that a technical violation of the law, such as failure to provide notice or obtain a release, is sufficient to state a claim under the Act. Under BIPA, an “aggrieved” party is similar to the concept of the injury-in-fact requirement for standing in federal court. There, the Court found that the “injury is real and significant.”

In light of the Rosenbach decision, it is even more important that employers with operations in Illinois consider taking the following action:

(1)  First, determine if your company collects, uses, stores, or transmits any employee’s (or other individual’s) biometric information or identifiers that may be covered by BIPA (e.g., using fingerprint recognition technology for time keeping purposes or to access a company-issued property or devices).

(2)  If your company does collect, use, store, or transmit biometric data/identifiers, you should:

(a)  develop or review existing, written policies concerning the collection, storage, use, transmission, and destruction of that information, consistent with industry standards;

(b)  implement policies concerning proper notice to employees (and other affected individuals) about the company’s use, storage, etc., of such data and obtain written and signed consent forms from all affected persons; and

(c)  establish practices to protect individuals’ privacy against improper disclosure of biometric data/identifiers, using the methods and standard of care that they would apply to other material deemed confidential and sensitive.

Importantly, providing proper notice includes identifying the specific reason for the collection, storage, and use of the biometric data, as well as how long the employer will use or retain such data. 740 Ill. Comp. Stat. 14/15(a), (b); 14/10.

There is a visceral and palpable dynamic emerging in global workplaces: tension.

Tension between what is potentially knowable—and what is actually known.   Tension between the present and the future state of work.  Tension between what was, is, and what might become (and when).  Tension between the nature, function, and limits of data and technology.

The present-future of work is being shaped daily, dynamically, and profoundly by a host of factors—led by the exponential proliferation of data, new technologies, and artificial intelligence (“AI”)—whose impact cannot be understated.  Modern employers have access to an unprecedented amount of data impacting their workforce, from data concerning the trends and patterns in employee behaviors and data concerning the people analytics used in hiring, compensation, and employee benefits, to data that analyzes the composition of the employee workforce itself.  To be sure, AI will continue to disrupt how virtually every employer views its human capital model on an enterprise basis. On a micro level, employers are already analyzing which functions or groups of roles might be automated, augmented, or better aligned to meet their future business models.

And, yet, there is an equal, counterbalancing force at play—the increased demand for accountability, transparency, civility, and equity.  We have already seen this force playing out in real time, most notably in the #MeToo, pay equity, and data privacy and security movements.  We expect that these movements and trends will continue to gain traction and momentum in litigation, regulation, and international conversation into 2019 and beyond.

We have invited Epstein Becker Green attorneys from our Technology, Media & Telecommunications (“TMT”) service team to reflect and opine on the most significant developments of the year.  In each, we endeavor to provide practical insights to enable employers to think strategically through these emergent tensions and business realities—to continue to deliver value to their organizations and safeguard their goodwill and reputation.

Continue Reading <i>Take 5</i> Newsletter – The Present-Future of Work: 2018 Trends and 2019 Predictions

For years, companies have been struggling to understand the multitude of locations where their data resides. From traditional employment files with embedded Social Security numbers, to new-aged hiring software with videos of job applicants, and enterprise software used to facilitate employee communications, controlling employee, customer, and corporate data is, to say the least, a logistical challenge. One of the newest entries into the mix is the increased use of ShadowIT and cloud-based storage systems.

ShadowIT involves workers’ use of unsanctioned products and applications to perform the work of the business enterprise. In other words, ShadowIT occurs when employees use their personal emails and applications, such as a cloud-based storage system, instead of company-approved solutions. According to a recent survey, about one-third of IT use is considered ShadowIT. Whether responding to a subpoena in a wage and hour dispute, attempting to safeguard previous corporate secrets, or analyzing the extent of a data breach, a company’s failure to understand the scope and location of ShadowIT data could be problematic. Companies should have policies in place regarding employees’ (and other workers’) use of unapproved applications, but there should also be an understanding that a policy is not a panacea.

For data storage, recent studies show that most organizations are using over 1,000 cloud-based services. Indeed, one such study found that an average organization had 1,154 cloud services in use. This large number demonstrates that companies must manage the sheer volume of data in the cloud or potentially be exposed to liability.

Companies must also think about physical storage when a laptop or a phone is stolen and suddenly control over data on that item is lost. One leaked file in California, for example, could require a company to send out a data breach notification to millions of customers in California (an issue magnified under varying state laws as well in the current landscape). No overall system is perfect for this task, and the idea that company data can be completely controlled may be an illusory one, but there are important issues for companies to consider and sensible steps that they should take to safeguard data, including the following:

  • Survey ShadowIT Usage. Companies should consider conducting anonymous data audit surveys of employees to find out what other applications or products employees are using to perform their jobs. The company can then review its IT department to determine if it lacks the functionality for a certain program or if the problem of unsanctioned product use is simply a result of a lack of employee education as to the sanctioned products available to employees.
  • Manage ShadowIT Usage. Employees using ShadowIT or unsanctioned products create control risks for companies, and employers may consider disciplining employees for not following corporate policies on approved applications. On the other hand, having draconian disciplinary measures in an effort to maintain control over data will not necessarily stop ShadowIT use but may force it deeper undercover. Discipline could also have an adverse impact on employee engagement and retention.
  • Consider “Amnesty.” Companies should consider whether it makes sense to implement a time-limited policy, whereby employees can bring their unapproved software or application to the IT department to see if the program can be moved onto an approved list from the corporation, without the threat of discipline or sanction.
  • Review Vendor Contracts. Companies should review their contracts with vendors for approved cloud-based products and software. This may include auditing other cloud-based companies where data is stored to ensure that the company is adhering to best practices of network security. The contracts should contain data breach notification clauses, as well as indemnification agreements, when possible.
  • Train Workforce. Frequently, employees are the “weak link” in data control efforts, as they are often the cause of a data breach into a company’s secure network. Training employees about how to spot scam phishing emails and protect intellectual property can go a long way toward mitigating that risk.

Technology is constantly evolving such that there will always be a new product or service that could potentially be a benefit to employee productivity. A ShadowIT survey, while helpful, is only a look back in time. Companies need a way to address ShadowIT use as it evolves going forward. A company prohibition on ShadowIT without some method for employees to submit new products for consideration without fear of reprisal keeps the company in the dark about its data. Companies must also be mindful of the other cloud-based providers’ security protocols and the likelihood that a third party could accidently let sensitive data out into the public domain.

A version of this article originally appeared in the Take 5 newsletter “Five Trending Challenges Facing Employers in the Technology, Media, and Telecommunications Industry.”

Our colleagues Anthony Laura and Matthew Aibel, attorneys at Epstein Becker Green, have a post on the Trade Secrets & Noncompete Blog that will be of interest to many of our readers in the technology industry: “Jurisdiction to Pursue Non-Compete Claims in the Age of Remote Employees.”

Following is an excerpt:

With remote access technology becoming standard across industries, companies readily engage a multi-state workforce, with many employees residing outside of the employer’s home state.  While an expanded access to talent may be beneficial, one drawback is the ability to enforce restrictive covenants with out of state employees in a consistent manner and in the employer’s home state.  The case of Numeric Analytics, LLC v. McCabe, et al., offers insight into that issue. 2:16-cv-00051-GAM (E.D. Pa. 2/9/16). …

One obvious solution to this problem is to have a forum selection clause in all employment agreements, especially those with out-of-state employees.  Such a provision will usually control the analysis and enable a company to seek to enforce the agreements in its preferred locale.  This case should serve as a cautionary tale for employers with remote employees and should remind all legal and human resource departments to check on the contracts they currently have with remote employees to ensure they contain forum selection clauses.

Read the full post here.