VIDEO: Outlook for FTC, HHS Health Privacy Enforcement

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By George Lynch

The Federal Trade Commission will likely focus on consumer harm as a threshold matter in data security enforcement under President Donald Trump, a panel of privacy professionals said at Bloomberg Law’s 2017 Privacy Outlook.

In terms of privacy and security issues, the FTC will “focus on concrete harms,” Julie Brill, a privacy partner at Hogan Lovells LLP in Washington and former FTC commissioner, said. There will likely be a cutting back on more aggressive privacy cases in favor of focusing on harm to vulnerable consumers, such as children, the elderly and veterans, or on concrete harms to a broader population, Brill said.

Douglas Meal, a privacy and information security litigation partner at Ropes & Gray LLP in Boston, said the FTC has overstepped its authority in enforcing uncertain data security standards.

There is “an enormous amount of litigation out there” that may have a significant impact on how health companies approach data security issues in 2017, he said. Meal and Ropes & Gray represent the now defunct medical testing company LabMD Inc. in ongoing litigation challenging the FTC’s data security action against the company.

Health Information

The panel, which was moderated by Bloomberg Law Health News Director Lisa Rockelli, also discussed enforcement of privacy and security under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act by the Department of Health and Human Services.

There were three HIPAA enforcement actions in the first two months of the year, with more in the pipeline, Adam Greene, a health privacy partner at David Wright Tremaine LLP in Washington, said.

It is unclear whether there will be a lull in HHS enforcement actions once a new political appointee is in charge of the office that enforces HIPAA, Greene said.

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To contact the editor responsible for this story: Donald Aplin at

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