Washington, DC - A California company has agreed to settle Federal Trade Commission allegations that it falsely claimed it was in the process of being certified as complying with the EU-U.S. Privacy Shield framework, which establishes a process to allow companies to transfer consumer data from European Union countries to the United States in compliance with EU law.
“Today’s settlement demonstrates the FTC’s continuing commitment to vigorous enforcement of the Privacy Shield,” FTC Chairman Joe Simons commented. “We believe Privacy Shield is a critical tool for ensuring transatlantic data flows and protecting privacy that benefits both companies and consumers.”
According to the FTC’s complaint, the Commission alleges that ReadyTech Corporation, which provides online training services, falsely claimed on its website that it is “in the process of certifying that we comply with the U.S.-E.U. Privacy Shield Framework.” While ReadyTech initiated an application to the U.S. Department of Commerce in October 2016, the company did not complete the steps necessary to participate in the Privacy Shield framework. The Department of Commerce administers the framework, while the FTC enforces the promises companies make when joining the Privacy Shield.
The FTC alleges in its complaint that the company’s false claim that it is in the process of certification violates the FTC Act’s prohibition against deceptive acts or practices.
As part of the settlement, ReadyTech is prohibited from misrepresenting its participation in any privacy or security program sponsored by a government or any self-regulatory or standard-setting organization, including but not limited to the EU-U.S. Privacy Shield framework and the Swiss-U.S. Privacy Shield framework. It also must comply with standard reporting and compliance requirements.
This is the FTC’s fourth case enforcing Privacy Shield. It continues the FTC’s commitment to enforcing international privacy frameworks, making a total of 47 cases enforcing the Privacy Shield, the predecessor Safe Harbor framework, and the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation Cross Border Privacy Rules framework.
The Commission vote to issue the administrative complaint and to accept the consent agreement was 5-0. The FTC will publish a description of the consent agreement package in the Federal Register shortly. The agreement will be subject to public comment for 30 days, beginning today and continuing through Wednesday, August 1, after which the Commission will decide whether to make the proposed consent order final. Interested parties can submit comments electronically by following the instructions in the “Invitation To Comment” part of the “Supplementary Information” section.
The Commission issues an administrative complaint when it has “reason to believe” that the law has been or is being violated, and it appears to the Commission that a proceeding is in the public interest. When the Commission issues a consent order on a final basis, it carries the force of law with respect to future actions. Each violation of such an order may result in a civil penalty of up to $41,484.