Data Breach. Privacy.


Data Breach. Privacy.

Data Breach. Privacy.

Data Breach. Privacy.

Anyone who closely follows the news has heard the term “data breach” all too often in recent months. A violation of ones privacy rights.  There is little doubt that these “breaches” of consumer’s personally identifiable information (PII) via the nation’s retailers are becoming a serious threat to consumers.

This problem has hit California particularly hard over the past year, so much so that some have begun referring to 2014 as “the year of the data breach.” California legislators have taken notice. In the wake of this epidemic, the State has proposed two bills designed to educate consumers and keep retailers accountable for safeguarding personal information.

One bill proposed by State Senator Hannah-Beth Jackson, of California’s 19th district, is SB-570. The bill seeks to simplify and standardize the manner in which consumers are informed of any data breach. The bill requires notification of a data breach to be detailed, in a simple to read one-page document headlined “Notice of Data Breach,” with a predefined format containing the following information:

  • What Happened
  • What Information Was Involved
  • What Are We (retailer) Doing
  • What You Can Do
  • For More Information

A second bill dealing with this issue is AB 964, sponsored by Assembly Member Ed Chau, of California’s 49th Assembly District. Among other things, this bill seeks to define the term “encryption” when used by businesses. The bill defines encryption as “rendered unusable, unreadable, or indecipherable through a security technology or methodology generally accepted in the field of information security.”

At the present time data breach statutes in the state of California fall under the umbrella of the Customer Records Act, which specifies that companies “must implement and maintain reasonable security procedures and practices,” in regards to customer’s Personally Identifiable Information, and notify the customer of breaches without “unreasonable delay.”

Will these pending Senate and Assembly bills do anything to stem the tide of personal data breaches? While these proposed bills may tighten up procedures and langue concerning how businesses handle notification of data breaches, they don’t specifically create a solution to the crime itself. Sadly, with hackers becoming more sophisticated, companies becoming less careful in how they handle our PII and our privacy, and consumers becoming more careless with their own private information, eradicating these crimes altogether may be a long and tedious battle.

So what can consumers do?

Right or wrong, the brunt of the responsibility falls on you, as usual. Shopping with credit and debit cards, while very convenient, opens you up to some risk. You must take proactive steps to protect yourself and you must be vigilant when it comes to your finances. Read here for some simple common sense tips to avoid data breaches:

Remember, the first line of protection is always you. Stay involved, stay alert and stay informed. ‘

Until next time, I’m Attorney Francine Ward helping you protect what’s yours. Join my conversation on Law Facebook, Esteemable Acts Facebook Fan Page,  Law Twitter, Esteemableacts Twitter, or in one of my LinkedIn groupsGoogle+ Circles.

Trust. Will. Estate Plan.


Will. Trust. Estate Plan

Will. Trust.

Will. Trust.

How prepared are you for your future and the future of your loved ones – truly prepared, a little prepared, or not so much? Believe it or not, most people are not. Many people believe they don’t really need to get their estate plan in order. Some feel as long as they have just a Will, they are protecting their assets and their family’s future. However, true protection goes further than a simple Will.

Yes, it is very wise for any adult with any valuable assets to have a well drafted will. However, true protection goes a lot further. The complete estate plan includes a valid Will, the Trust, the Power of Attorney, the Healthcare Directive, and the Assignment of Assets document.

The Trust.
When planning for your estate in California, if you have assets, your first document should be the Trust. You cannot overlook the importance of setting up a Trust. If you reside in the state of California, there is no excuse not to have one. While your taxes may not be eliminated, they may be reduced. And with a valid and fully-funded Trust, you can potentially avoid probate and the extra expense and time that goes along with administering the estate through probate. Trusts can give you greater control over your estate, how it is divided, and how and when assets are distributed. Then there is the matter of privacy. Unlike probate, trusts are not a matter of public record. There are various ways to set up a trust so that it specifically suits your needs now and after you have passed. You can even set up special trusts for the care and maintenance of disabled relatives, pets, and other loved ones.

The Will.
When a Trust is part of the entire estate plan, we call the Will a Pour-over will, because it catches anything accidentally not included in the Trust. At a bare minimum, your estate plan should include a Will. However, as earlier mentioned, if you have valuable assets, consider having a trust prepared. It is important to know that if you have a Will but no Trust, your estate will go through Probate.

The Power of Attorney.
Let’s not forget about the all-important Power of Attorney. Suppose you become terminally ill and/or incapacitated to the degree you cannot manage your affairs, who will look out for your financial interests? Who will pay your bills? Who will watch over your investments? Who will make bank deposits or withdrawals for you? Who will handle issues regarding insurance and government benefits? Without proper agency documents, such as the Power of Attorney, your family members may wind up in a nasty and protracted court battle to determine who will handle these things on your behalf. If you are not bothered by your family “duking it out” on your behalf, then ignore my warning. If you care, make sure your desires are clearly, explicitly, and expressly understood.

The Healthcare Directive.
Then there is the all-important issue of the Healthcare Directive. This document informs your family, and any medical professionals who might be attending to your needs, of your wishes when it comes to your healthcare. It also enables you to name a person called, the Agent or the Attorney-in-Fact to make your healthcare decisions for you, based on your desires. How many times do people become very ill and their family is left thinking, or fighting over, what medical procedures or lack thereof should be performed? Unfortunately, this happens all too often. The Healthcare Directive allows you to choose a primary physician, where and if you will be buried, and a number of other items.

Even if you have been proactive in regards to your estate planning and have all of your documents in order, it is extremely important to know exactly what is in those documents and know exactly what you are agreeing to before signing on the dotted line. I can’t stress this point enough! Proper planning and precise legal documentation are the keys to protecting yourself, your estate and your family.

Until next time, I’m Attorney Francine Ward helping you protect what’s yours. Join my conversation on FacebookTwitter, or in one of my LinkedIn groupsGoogle+ Circles.

Security Breach. Target. Identity Theft.


Security Breach. Target.

Security Breach. Identity Theft.

Security Breach. Identity Theft.

During the holiday shopping season of 2013, giant retailer, Target, suffered a security breach that exposed the private information of 110 million Target shoppers via a data theft of credit and debit card information. A class-action lawsuit against Target was filed shortly thereafter. Identity theft is a major consequence of a security breach.

Target has now agreed to pay $10 million in damages suffered from the security breach. The money will be deposited into an escrow account from where people whose information was exposed will collect payouts of up to $10,000. The court also decreed that Target manage these payouts via an online website. Further directives from the court stipulated that Target hire a “Chief Information Security Officer.”

Before the settlement was reached, Target argued that customers had “no standing” in establishing any injuries.

Data Breach has Far-Reaching Security Implications.

According to consumer-advocate organizations, this data breach has far-reaching security implications due to the fact that Target is an industry leader in data mining. This is the practice of using and analyzing the shopping habits and purchasing preferences of shoppers.  Once again, identity theft is a far-reaching implication of a security breach.

Security breaches at large retailers are not uncommon in the digital age. In 2014, The Home Depot suffered a breach when hackers installed malware on self-checkout registers. The company said the breach affected 56 million debit and credit cards in the United States and Canada.

As we can see, data breaches such as the ones mentioned above can wreak havoc on people’s lives. Keeping your debit and credit card information from getting into the wrong hands can be a challenge, but there are certain things you can do.

In a 2014 article, author Martha C. White, who writes about consumer debit, credit and retail banking suggests 6 things you can do the help prevent data theft.

  1. Use a Credit Card if you can: credit cards have more protections than debit cards and your bank account is not at risk.
  2. Sign instead of keying in your PIN: inputting your PIN gives thieves the opportunity to create a fake debit card and withdrawing your money from an ATM.
  3. Keep watching your statement: you never know when a thief will begin to use your compromised information. Often there is a time lapse between breach and use.
  4. Disable automatic transfers linked to accounts: thieves can empty out both accounts if your information is stolen.
  5. Use more, and better, passwords: 55% of all consumers use the same username and passwords for all their online accounts. If criminals breach one account, they can breach all of them.
  6. Set up account alerts: most banks let customers sign up for alerts that tell them if certain types of transactions are made.

Yes, using your debit and credit cards for shopping can be very convenient, but we all need to take responsibility in protecting our finances and personal information from thieves who are becoming better and better at stealing this data.

Until next time, I’m Attorney Francine Ward helping you protect what’s yours. Join my conversation on FacebookTwitter, or in one of my LinkedIn groupsGoogle+ Circles.




Mary Kay Letourneau. Registered sex-offender. Barbara Walters.


Barbara Walters interviews Mary Kay Letourneau.

Mary Kay Letourneau. Registered sex-offender.

Mary Kay Letourneau. Registered sex-offender.

This past Friday I tuned into ABC’s 20/20 program to watch Barbara Walters interview Mary Kay Letourneau. If you recall, this is the former schoolteacher who made national headlines back in 1996 when she was caught having a sexual affair with one of her students. She was 35, the student, Vili Fualaau, was 13.

Letourneau was prosecuted for the “affair” and served 89 months in a federal prison. She also became a registered sex-offender. Eventually, she married her then-student and had two children with him. They will be “celebrating” their 10th wedding anniversary this year.

Letourneau has been unapologetic.

Throughout this entire fiasco, Letourneau has been unapologetic, saying she never saw getting into this relationship as “wrong.” She also does not see herself as a sex-offender. In fact, she is looking to have her sex-offender status removed by the courts.

Now, many people who have followed this story and watched the interview will undoubtedly say that she deserves a second chance and that they are a happily married couple now, so what’s the big deal?

But I say, should everyone not be treated equally when it comes to pedophilia and sex-offenses?

Disparate Treatment Under the Law & in the Court of Public Opinion.

Is there any doubt that if Letourneau happened to be a man, and an unattractive man, at that, this case would be looked in a different light? There would be little sympathy for such a man, even if he wound up marrying his victim. But Letourneau is an attractive woman so many people rationalize the severity of her actions. Is a pedophile not a pedophile regardless of gender, race, wealth and social status? For many, evidently not!

Celebrities like Woody Allen, Roman Polanski and Steven Collins are treated far differently by people, the media and the courts when it comes to sex and sex-crimes than, let’s say, men who live in our nation’s ghettos. Again, is a sex-offender not a sex-offender if he/she happens to be a wealthy celebrity? And, can only men be sex-offenders and pedophiles, and not attractive women?

Mary Kay Letourneau talks about the pain her children went through because of this case, but she obviously doesn’t think about the pain caused by an adult having sex with a 13-year-old. The choices she made not only had profound consequences for her, but her children, husband and entire family.

What do you think of the Mary Kay Letourneau case and its implications on our society?

Until next time, I’m Attorney Francine Ward helping you protect what’s yours. Join my conversation on FacebookTwitter, or in one of my LinkedIn groupsGoogle+ Circles.




Blurred Lines. Marvin Gaye. Robin Thicke. Copyright Infringement.


Marvin Gaye.

Copyright Infringement. Copyright Music.

Copyright Infringement. Copyright Music.

Marvin Gaye wrote and performed many Motown hits during his legendary career.  Sadly, he died early and tragically in 1984 at the age of 44. However, Marvin Gaye received several posthumous honors and awards, including his 1987 induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. In 1977, Marvin Gaye released a hit single called “Got to Give It Up.” The song topped billboard charts and became an international favorite.

Blurred Lines. Robin Thicke. Copyright Infringement.

Fast forward 36 years to 2013 and the release of Robin Thicke’s hit song “Blurred Lines,” a song that the estate of Marvin Gaye believed was way too similar to “Got to Give It Up.” In August of 2013, the Gaye Estate filed a lawsuit alleging copyright infringement.

Robin Thicke’s attorneys argued that the similarities in the songs we more a matter of “feeling” and “evocation of an era” than the copying of a musical theme, and that no copyright laws were broken. The Estate of Marvin Gaye successfully claimed copyright infringement.

After a year and a half, the case was finally resolved this past Tuesday when a Los Angeles federal jury agreed with the estate of Marvin Gaye, deciding that Thicke and co-defendant Pharrell Williams, who co-wrote “Blurred Lines,” did infringe on the copyright and awarded the family of Marvin Gaye over $7.3 million. The damages are believed to be one of the highest awarded in a music copyright case.

After the verdict, Richard S. Busch, an attorney for the Gaye family, spoke of the main argument of the defense saying: “Throughout this case they made comments about how this was about a groove, and how this was about an era, it wasn’t. It was about the copyright of ‘Got to Give It Up.’ It was about copyright infringement.”  Attorneys for Thicke and Williams would only say that they are “considering their legal options.” However, Thicke and Williams did release a joint statement saying they were “extremely disappointed in the ruling made today, which sets a horrible precedent for music and creativity going forward.”

As an attorney who believes in protecting the rights of creators, I am pleased with the outcome.  What do you think? Do you think “Blurred Lines” sounds similar to Marvin Gaye’s hit single “Got to Give It Up”?

Until next time, I’m Attorney Francine Ward helping you protect what’s yours. Join my conversation on Facebook, Twitter, or in one of my LinkedIn groups, Google+ Circles.