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FAA v. Cooper and the Federal Privacy Act: Narrow Interpretation, Broad Consequences

With its March 28, 2012 decision in Federal Aviation Administration, et al. v. Cooper, 132 S. Ct. 1441 (U.S. 2012), the United States Supreme Court restricted the scope of a federal privacy law, ruling that the law – which allows recovery for “actual damages” – only authorizes damages for monetary losses. Accordingly, a San Francisco pilot was not permitted to recover humiliation and emotional distress damages from government agencies that disclosed his HIV-positive status without his consent.

In 1964, Stanmore Cooper (“Cooper”) obtained his pilot’s license from the Federal Aviation Administration (“FAA”). In 1985, Cooper was diagnosed with HIV and began taking antiretroviral medication. At that time, the FAA did not issue medical certificates to persons with HIV, so Cooper gave up his pilot’s license, knowing that he would not qualify for renewal of his medical certificate. However, in 1994, Cooper re-applied for a pilot’s license and, to receive a medical certificate, purposefully withheld his HIV-positive status and medication from the FAA. He renewed his certificate four more times and as recently as 2004, each time withholding information about his condition. When Cooper’s health began to deteriorate, he applied for long-term disability benefits and, to substantiate his claim, disclosed his HIV-positive status to the Social Security Administration (“SSA”), which awarded him disability benefits.

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Cloud Computing Data Breaches – The Facts

Every year the buzz grows around the Verizon RISK team’s release of its annual Data Breach Investigations Report (DBIR).

As an incident response professional, the DBIR is one of my favorite reads. This year’s DBIR included analysis of security concerns in cloud computing. So for those of you interested in cloud security, this is the blog post for you!

The report, on page 40 states:

“Because working definitions of “the cloud” are legion, it can be difficult to answer questions about how this paradigm factors into data breaches. Do we see breaches that compromise assets in an externally-hosted environment that is not managed by the victim? Yes; absolutely. Do we see successful attacks against the hypervisor in the wild? No; not really.”

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New York Court of Appeals Rules That Viewing Images On The Web Does Not Constitute Procurement, Possession or Control, Even When Cached On A Hard Drive

On May 8, 2012, the New York Court of Appeals issued a ruling that merely viewing child pornography on the internet is not a criminal act under the New York Penal Code. The People v. James D. Kent, Index 70, NYLJ 1202552838004, at *1 (Ct. of App., Decided May 8, 2012). The rationale behind the decision of the state’s highest court bears discussion on a much broader scale due to its potential bearing on the legal definitions of procurement, possession and control of digital property.

The key question under consideration was the evidentiary significance of temporary internet files (or cache files) that are automatically created and stored on a the hard drive of a computer while the user is browsing the internet. The Appellate Court concluded that the act of viewing a web image alone does not, absent other proof, constitute either possession or procurement.

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If the Glove Fits, You Must Defend

Trade dress insurance coverage is alive and well. At least in Wisconsin. In Acuity v. Ross Glove Company, 2012 WL 1109035 (Wis. Ct. App. April 4, 2012), the Wisconsin Court of Appeals held that an insurer’s duty to defend was triggered under advertising injury liability coverage where the underlying complaint set forth allegations of trade dress infringement.

In the Acuity case, Ross Glove purchased a commercial general liability policy from Acuity, which included advertising injury liability coverage. The policy at issue defined “advertising injury”, in part, as “infringing upon another‘s copyright, trade dress or slogan in your advertisement.”

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