On March 17, 2021, California officials announced the appointment of five board members of the California Privacy Protection Agency ( the “CPPA”), the first data protection agency in the United States. The CPPA, created by the California Privacy Rights Act (“CPRA”) which California voters approved in November 2020, is charged with promulgating the CPRA regulations; enforcing the CCPA and CPRA; and educating consumers about their privacy rights.
For over two and a half years, California has enjoyed the spotlight of having the most comprehensive data privacy law in the United States. On March 2, 2021, Virginia forced California to share the honors, when Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam signed into law the Virginia Consumer Data Protection Act (VCDPA).
The VCDPA, which will not enter into effect until January 1, 2023, borrows heavily from the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) and the European Union (EU) General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). Perhaps because Virginia was able to benefit from the experience of businesses that have spent the better part of the last five years implementing the GDPR or the CCPA, the Virginia law is less prescriptive and more straightforward than its predecessors, with (one would hope) a correspondingly lighter implementation burden on companies. Nonetheless, there is just enough different in the VCDPA that businesses with a connection to Virginia will need to evaluate whether the law applies to them and how they will comply.
While an exegesis of the VCDPA is beyond the scope of today’s Data Matters post, this alert is designed to assist such efforts in three ways. First, we lay out the VCDPA’s scope, providing preliminary insight into which businesses the law will cover. Second, we highlight the key ways the VCDPA differs from — and, more important, extends beyond — the CCPA and GDPR so that businesses will have an initial sense of what, if any, unique obligations the VCDPA will place on them. Finally, for completeness’s sake, the post briefly summarizes the law’s key elements.
On February 4, 2021, the New York Department of Financial Services (NYDFS) issued Circular Letter No. 2 announcing a Cyber Insurance Risk Framework (the Framework) that describes industry best practices for New York-regulated property/casualty insurers. Issuance of the Framework is notable as it represents the first official guidance by a U.S. regulator concerning the increasingly critical issue of cyberinsurance. And while circular letters do not establish new legal requirements or have the force of law, they do set forth the department’s interpretation of the requirements of existing laws and regulations.1
On December 15, 2020, the U.S. Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) approved and the federal banking agencies jointly announced on December 18 a notice of proposed rulemaking, Computer-Security Incident Notification Requirements for Banking Organizations and Their Bank Service Providers (NPR).1 The NPR is a joint proposal by the Office of the Comptroller (OCC), the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (Board), and the FDIC.
On December 10, 2020, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Office of Civil Rights (OCR) released a proposed rule (the Proposed Rule) that would make a number of key changes to the Privacy Rule under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 and the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health Act of 2009 (collectively, HIPAA). HHS stated that the Proposed Rule is intended to reduce burdens that may limit or discourage care coordination and case management communications among individuals and HIPAA-covered entities while continuing to protect the privacy of individuals. The proposed changes are designed to lead to increased data access, sharing, and portability and to further HHS’s emphasis on patients’ right of information access, which has been highlighted through a series of enforcement actions in 2020. If enacted as proposed, the amendments would require healthcare providers and electronic health records (EHR) vendors to update policies and disclosures related to information access and perhaps even to redesign certain EHR processes. Comments are due 60 days after publication in the Federal Register.
The results are in, and California voters have approved the California Privacy Rights Act (CPRA) which was listed on the ballot as Proposition 24. The law, most of which does not go into effect until January 1, 2023, will substantially overhaul and amend the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) which went into effect just this year, on January 1, 2020, with final regulations issued just a few months ago, on August 14, 2020. And indeed, CCPA obligations continue to evolve, with proposed amendments to the regulations proposed by the Attorney General’s Office mid-October 2020.
New privacy developments continue to come from California, with a new proposed modifications to CCPA regulations, continuing CCPA litigation, and voting beginning on Proposition 24, an initiative to overhaul the CCPA. We provide insight into each below.
Proposed Third Modified CCPA Regulations
In mid-October 2020, just a few months after the “finalization” of the regulations, the California Office of Attorney General proposed a handful of proposed modifications to regulations implementing the California Consumer Privacy Act. The abbreviated comment period for the proposed modifications closed on October 28th, which means the Attorney General must now review the comments, draft a response, and either further modify the proposed regulations or submit them in their current form for approval by the California Office of Administrative Law (OAL).
California’s Governor Gavin Newsom recently signed into law two bills to amend the California Consumer Privacy Act (“CCPA”). He also vetoed two other consumer privacy bills based on concerns about potential conflicts with existing state and federal law. Collectively, these four bills represented the most significant privacy legislation that came out of the California Legislature’s 2019-20 term, which came to a close on September 30th.
Only one of the two new CCPA amendments, AB713, includes substantive changes to the law. It streamlines the CCPA’s health information exception and imposes new obligations on CCPA businesses and others that handle deidentified patient information.
The other CCPA amendment, AB1281, simply extends the CCPA’s employee and B2B exemptions to January 1, 2022 if voters fail to pass Proposition 24 (CPRA or CCPA 2.0) in November. Those exemptions are currently set to expire on December 31st of this year.
Newsom also vetoed two consumer privacy bills despite expressing support for the goals of each. SB980 would have expanded consumer rights with respect to genetic information collected by direct-to-consumer genetic testing companies. Newsom’s veto was motivated by concerns that the law could have “unintended consequences” for the operation of the state’s communicable disease reporting requirements, including those applicable to COVID-19. The other bill, AB1138, would have imposed additional parental consent requirements on social media network operators. Newsom vetoed it to avoid potentially overlapping state and federal compliance obligations, citing parallels between the bill and federal regulations under the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (“COPPA”).
Here we outline the significant features of each of the new CCPA amendments.
On October 1, 2020, the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) published an advisory that highlights the risk of potential U.S. sanctions law violations if U.S. individuals and businesses comply with ransomware payment demands.1
Ransomware attacks use malware, often injected through phishing schemes, to encrypt a victim’s data files or programs, followed by a ransom demand by the threat actor that offers the decryption key in exchange for payment. Payment is often demanded in bitcoin, and thus third-party services are often used to make such payments. Increasingly, ransomware attacks not only lock data up but steal data from the victim and threaten to publish sensitive files belonging to victims. According to OFAC, ransomware attacks have been increasing over the last two years and are a special risk during the COVID-19 pandemic, with cybercriminals targeting not only large corporations but also small to medium enterprises, hospitals, schools, and local government agencies.2
In almost the first three quarters of 2020, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office for Civil Rights (“OCR”) has settled three cases related to alleged violations of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (“HIPAA”), totaling $1,165,000. These settlements underscore OCR’s continued focus on enforcement of the HIPAA Security Rule.