We saw a few developments on the privacy and security front these past few weeks, so rather than our usual approach of focusing on one issue, this post will highlight a few noteworthy stories.

Cookies

France’s data protection regulator (CNIL) slapped Google and Amazon with fines for dropping tracking cookies without users’ prior consent, as required under the ePrivacy Directive incorporated into France’s Data Protection Act. Google was fined €100 million while Amazon received a €35 million fine – both in connection with their French (.fr) domains. In investigating the websites, the CNIL found that in both instances, tracking cookies were automatically dropped when a user visited the domains in violation of the Data Protection Act. As a high-level reminder, EU law mandates that non-essential cookies not be dropped by a website operator until and unless a user consents to those cookies – meaning that having a banner merely informing visitors that they “agree to the use of cookies” is in violation of the law. Such was the case with Amazon’s banner, despite its use of tracking cookies (i.e., non-essential) cookies. Moreover, transparency is required as to the use of cookies, and in both cases, the CNIL found violations as to transparency (or lack thereof) in addition to improper consent mechanisms and implementation. Finally, with respect to Google, the CNIL also found that even when a user deactivated all personalized advertising, one remained in violation of the law, highlighting the often overlooked importance of ensuring that language (and choice) are aligned with technical implementation.
Continue Reading Cookies, Opt-Out Choices, IoT Security: Recent Developments in Data Protection

Data retention. It’s not something that excites and invigorates businesses. But it is a necessary cost of doing business, not only to ensure one retains certain data for as long as each applicable law requires, but also as an increasingly important risk mitigation strategy.

Determining how long to retain a type of data or record depends on several factors. Various laws and regulations mandate that businesses retain certain records and data for minimum time periods. Statutes of limitation on certain types of claims also guide businesses as to how long to retain certain data. Conversely, privacy laws have always included a component of data minimization requiring businesses not to “hoard” data. Taken as a whole, these different rules require businesses to strike the right balance between retaining data for at least the properly mandated period and not retaining it for longer than necessary. Now, getting this right is even more important with the increasing risks of class action lawsuits for data security breaches. Quite simply, the more data you have, the more data you can lose. Having bastions of data will further complicate the tracking of data that may have been accessible to or taken by an unauthorized third party. This is one reason why, despite requirements to promptly notify individuals that their data was accessed in a security breach, businesses may take months to provide the notifications to individuals.
Continue Reading Data Retention – More than Meets the Eye

Consistent with California’s history of prioritizing consumer privacy protections, Proposition 24 (full text here), a.k.a the California Privacy Rights Act (“CPRA”), was placed on the November ballot and handily approved by voters last week. The measure’s background itself indicates that the CPRA was being put forward to make privacy more transparent to users, similar to “ingredient labels on foods.” Background information also indicates a willingness to strengthen privacy rights over time rather than diluting them (particularly as regards to children), and in fact this push for increased transparency and protection is consistent with how certain platforms are requiring clearer policies (we discuss Apple’s new requirements here). While the CPRA will be fully effective and enforceable January 1, 2023, certain provisions take effect earlier and have a look-back provision. Businesses should start to familiarize themselves with the new or updated definitions and additional requirements contained in the CPRA.
Continue Reading Voters Approve the California Privacy Rights Act: What Businesses Need to Know

With COVID-19 driving so much business online, like most people, I am increasingly seeing offers from companies vying for new customers to hand over my contact information in exchange for discounts or rewards. This includes businesses that seek to use personal information obtained through loyalty or rewards programs, those that offer price or service differences such as with free versus paid subscriptions to a service (e.g., music streaming), or those that simply want to increase their marketing reach and attract new consumers by offering a discount in exchange for personal information. There is really nothing new to these types of marketing strategies, but for companies that are subject to the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA), providing discounts, rewards or free-versus-paid services to California consumers has become trickier because the CCPA contains very specific – and quite stringent – obligations when it comes to financial incentives. The CCPA defines a “financial incentive” as a program, benefit, or other offering (including payments to consumers) related to the collection, retention, or sale of personal information – or, put simply, you give me your personal information and I will give you a discount code or rewards. Many businesses that are subject to CCPA, however, are not complying with the CCPA’s complex requirements regarding financial incentives. Failing to comply could spell trouble. Below we explain the challenges of implementing the CCPA’s requirements with respect to financial incentives.
Continue Reading Providing Financial Incentives Under CCPA

Long gone are the days when companies could claim ownership in their employees’ data, at least in California. As our prior posts have indicated, the definition of “consumer” under the CCPA is extremely broad and extends to employees. A consumer is not only a customer or user of a business’ services, products or websites, but also a business’ employees, contractors and job applicants.

However, despite taking effect in January 1, 2020, the CCPA’s application is currently limited with regard to personal information of employees, contractors, and job applicants collected and used in the employment context. This hold delays application of some provisions of the CCPA with respect to personal information collected in the employment context (originally until January 1, 2021 and now as extended to January 1, 2022 or 2023 as set forth below), including the rights to access data and deletion of data. As a reminder, the exemption also only applies to the extent that the employer collects/uses the personal information in the context of its employment relationship and for employment purposes. Thus, any use of such personal information by an employer outside the scope of the strict employment relationship would remain covered under all of the provisions of the CCPA. For example, if an employer were to allow its insurance company to collect employee data in order to market other insurance services to those individuals, this would not be within the scope of employment and therefore subject to all of the consumer rights otherwise available under CCPA.
Continue Reading Employee Data under CCPA

As we (remotely) head back to school, we thought it timely to post our “annual” reminder that collecting, using and/or disclosing children’s personal information comes with some restrictions (see last year’s post here). With this unprecedented back-to-school season, nearly all children’s activities, products and services are moving online for the foreseeable future. As such, now more than ever organizations should really take the time to determine whether they collect any data from children (or have actual knowledge of doing so), and ensure that they are taking the proper steps to comply with applicable rules.
Continue Reading Children’s Privacy Check-Up

During a recent keynote presentation with the IAPP following the July 1 enforcement deadline of the CCPA, Stacey Schesser, Supervising Deputy Attorney General for the State of California (“Deputy AG”), provided a bit of a roadmap for CCPA enforcement actions from the California Attorney General (“AG”) that are both currently underway and expected in the near future.
Continue Reading CCPA Enforcement: What to Expect Next

The California Attorney General’s final proposed regulations under CCPA (“Regulations”) have been submitted, and pending approval by the California Office of Administrative Law, will soon become enforceable by law. One often overlooked requirement of the CCPA is the obligation of covered businesses to provide notices that are “reasonably accessible.” All drafts of the Regulations have provided more detail about the accessibility requirement contained in the CCPA, and the final Regulations make clear that for notices provided online, businesses must follow generally recognized industry standards, such as the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines, version 2.1 (WCAG) from the World Wide Web Consortium. While companies have largely focused on updating the language or substance of their notices to comply with CCPA, this requirement as to form has, by and large, slipped through the cracks, but is certain to generate some discussion (if not litigation) in coming months.

By way of background, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requires, among other things, that places of “public accommodation” remove barriers to access for individuals with disabilities. While this has long been considered the rule for physical establishments, including privately-owned, leased or operated facilities like hotels, restaurants, retail merchants, health clubs, sports stadiums, movie theaters, and so on, virtual accessibility has been much less consistent, and generally the exception rather than the norm. In fact, web accessibility hardly ever appears on businesses’ radars, due perhaps to a very short-sighted perception of what, in fact, qualifies as a disability as well as a lack of overall guidance.

Web accessibility means ensuring that websites, mobile applications, and other virtual platforms can be used by everyone, including those with disabilities, such as impaired vision. However, what exactly is required is a source of confusion. In 2019, the Department of Justice (DOJ), which is responsible for establishing regulations pursuant to the ADA, withdrew regulations that had been drafted for website accessibility, and has since yet to promulgate any such regulations. This has left courts with the task of determining how and to what extent web accessibility is required under the ADA when it comes to businesses that offer goods and services online, with varying results.
Continue Reading CCPA and Web Accessibility

As if businesses did not already have enough to address with the COVID-19 pandemic and compliance with the California Consumer Privacy Act (the “CCPA”), businesses need to consider the California Privacy Rights Act (the “CPRA”), which will almost certainly be on the November ballot. Structured as an amendment to the CCPA and also known as “CCPA 2.0”, the CPRA ballot initiative was spawned by Alastair Mactaggart. You may recall Mr. Mactaggart as the real estate developer who submitted a ballot initiative that resulted in a negotiation with the state legislature to replace the initiative with the CCPA. If the CPRA is passed and becomes law, it would be effective and enforceable January 1, 2023, with certain provisions having a look-back provision.

The CPRA would establish a new category of “sensitive data” that is reminiscent of the GDPR’s definition of special categories of data but it is much broader. The definition is overly-inclusive, spanning from race, religion, and sexual orientation to financial account information and government identifiers (e.g., social security numbers). Consumers could choose to limit the use, sale and sharing of their sensitive data. Additional links on business websites may be required to “Limit the Use of My Sensitive Personal Information” in addition to the current “Do Not Sell My Personal Information” link that some businesses must now include under the CCPA.
Continue Reading The California Privacy Rights Act: CCPA Part Two

As cities and states gradually open up, companies have begun to assess under what circumstances they can re-open the workplace – and in particular, what health-related personal information can and should be collected. When it comes to monitoring employees, generally speaking, privacy and employment law are increasingly overlapping as more stringent laws are adopted, and COVID-19 has brought this overlap to the forefront. Our employment team at Hopkins & Carley has provided a number of resources and webinars on the employment-related issues of COVID-19 and what can and cannot be done (available here). Here we will focus on the intertwined privacy implications of allowing individuals – employees and non-employees – back into offices and facilities, particularly with respect to the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA).

What are the CCPA’s notice requirements?
Continue Reading Returning to Work: CCPA Considerations