TECHNOLOGY, OUTSOURCING, AND COMMERCIAL TRANSACTIONS
NEWS FOR LAWYERS AND SOURCING PROFESSIONALS

As lawmakers, policymakers, tech companies, and other data collectors try to determine how much access and control of consumer data is appropriate or acceptable, and how much notice and choice consumers should have, consumers will ultimately be the arbiter of such access and use.  

A recent New York Times article discusses the efforts of lawmakers to require internet companies to be more transparent with consumers regarding the data collected and the specific value associated with such data. The article goes on to say there is a growing sentiment that the imbalance of power between internet companies and consumers vis-à-vis the value of the data collected, and that consumers should know and benefit from the true value of the data they provide by utilizing the services.

Open source programs are becoming a best practice in the technology, telecom/media, and financial services industries. Companies are establishing open source best practices to streamline and organize the way their employees use open source, focusing on long-term business plans. Since open source, a collaborative development process, varies so greatly from traditional software practices (i.e., proprietary and closed), companies are creating their own open source programs and policies to manage how it is used and how it can work best for the company’s long-term goals. Naturally, large technology companies are leading the way in establishing open source best practices, but open source is becoming commonplace for both tech and non-tech companies.

Open source programs are typically created by a company’s software engineering or development department for informal use and then eventually grow to a “formal” program with a collection of policies and guidelines. These policies may include open source contributions, a list of acceptable licenses, and the use of OS code.

When an inventor of technology who is also a university employee wants to commercialize university-developed technology, it is customary for the university and the inventor to “spin out” the technology via a license agreement to a newly created company (a licensee company) that sets forth the terms of the license, including any necessary milestones for advancing the technology, restrictions on the use of the technology, and the royalties and other financial terms applicable to the licensing and commercialization of the technology.

Executive Order 13873 was issued on May 15 with the goal of “Securing the Information and Communications Technology and Services Supply Chain.” The order ultimately seeks to manage the national security risk that can exist in information and communications technology (ICT) transactions between those subject to US jurisdiction and those subject to the jurisdictions of foreign adversaries. The order defines “information and communications technology or services” as “any hardware, software, or other product or service primarily intended to fulfill or enable the function of information or data processing, storage, retrieval, or communication by electronic means, including transmission, storage, and display.” A “foreign adversary” is defined in the order as “any foreign government or foreign non-government person engaged in a long-term pattern or serious instances of conduct significantly adverse to the national security of the United States or security and safety of United States persons.”

In this Contract Corner, we are highlighting considerations for drafting sublicense provisions in the context of an Intellectual Property License.

  • Definition of Sublicense. A sublicense in the context of an IP license is any agreement where the licensee grants a third party rights to any of the licensed IP. This provision is often overly broad, but can be tailored to include standard exceptions (e.g., ordinary course agreements with End Users, distributors, etc.) in order to avoid an overly broad definition and to make sure that the royalty calculations are clear. It is also important to clarify the definition of End User in the sublicensing context, and to note that the sublicensee (or one of its affiliates) could be an End User if it uses the licensed IP for its own internal purposes.

Internet-connected devices contributing to the Internet of Things (IoT) are projected to exceed 50 billion devices by 2025, according to the Federal Trade Commission’s Bureau of Consumer Protection in its June 2018 comments on the Consumer Product Safety Commission’s notice of public hearing and request for written comments on “The Internet of Things and Consumer Product Hazards.” Such widespread use of and access to these internet-connected devices—which can collect personal data from their users—has spurred legislative movement toward introducing security standards for IoT devices. These initial steps start with the US government’s use of IoT devices through the Senate’s third proposed bill on the subject, S.734. The bill, known as the Internet of Things Cybersecurity Improvement Act of 2019, aims to manage cybersecurity risks regarding secure development, identity management, patching, and configuration management of “covered devices.” Under the proposed bill, a “covered device” is one that can connect to the internet, has data processing capabilities, and “is not a general-purpose computing device.” The covered devices at the focus of this bill refer to devices “owned or controlled by” the federal government.

The European General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) took effect in May 2018, requiring companies that handle or process EU residents’ personal information to conform to practices that seek to more fully protect consumer sensitive information. Companies that fall under this category, known as data controllers, must secure consumer consent or another legally acceptable method of gathering personal information, notify individuals of the personal information that is collected and how it will be used, and limit the collection and maintenance to necessary information for a limited period of time. The individuals whose personal information is gathered also have a right to access the information, limit its use, and withdraw their consent from data controllers for such use.

In this month’s Contract Corner, we are highlighting considerations for drafting an up-to-date privacy policy. In Part 1 of this series, we provided background on the general legal landscape for privacy policies in the United States and general issues that need to be addressed for an up-to-date policy. In this Part 2, we will provide some specific pointers on drafting, updating, and disclosing such policies.

Additional Information to Include

In addition to the list of items that should generally be covered in every privacy policy we provided in Part 1, the following are additional items you may need to set out in your specific privacy policy:

  • Directions for customers to access and update data (e.g., password resets, contact information updates, and mechanisms for unsubscribing)
  • Contact details or other means of reaching persons in your organization that can address user queries or concerns
  • Information regarding notifications when the privacy policy is updated (see below for considerations when reviewing and updating your policy)
  • Mechanisms for users to agree to and accept the terms of the privacy policy, as well as means for users to opt out

The New York State Assembly on June 17 passed the Stop Hacks and Improve Electronic Data Security (SHIELD) Act, following approval in the State Senate on June 5.

Drafting and posting a clear, concise, and accurate privacy policy is one of the most important tasks when creating a company’s website, particularly given today’s legal and regulatory environment. Privacy policy legal requirements are becoming more stringent and shortcomings less tolerated, and consumer sensitivity to privacy concerns are at an all-time high.

Despite these concerns, many companies’ policies are seemingly insufficient. A recent opinion piece published as part of the New York Times’ Privacy Project assessed 150 privacy policies from various companies and found that the vast majority of them were incomprehensible for the average person. At best, these seem to have been “created by lawyers, for lawyers” rather than as a tool for consumers to understand a company’s practices.

In this month’s Contract Corner, we will highlight considerations for drafting an up-to-date privacy policy. Part 1 of this month’s Contract Corner will provide background on the current legal landscape for privacy policies in the United States and general issues that need to be addressed.