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.
On August 14, 2020, California’s Office of Administrative Law approved and filed with the California Secretary of State final regulations implementing the California Consumer Privacy Act. The regulations, drafted by California’s Office of the Attorney General (OAG), went through three rounds of changes during the rulemaking process and were finally enacted more than two years after the CCPA was signed into law. The CCPA is a landmark state privacy law that grants consumers new privacy rights, and requires businesses to enhance disclosures about their data practices and facilitate consumer privacy rights. (more…)
On July 21, 2020, the New York State Department of Financial Services (NYDFS or the Department) issued a statement of charges and notice of hearing (the Statement) against First American Title Insurance Company (First American) for violations of the Department’s Cybersecurity Requirements for Financial Services Companies, 23 N.Y.C.R.R. Part 500 (Cybersecurity Regulation or Regulation). The First American Statement of charges alleges six violations of the Cybersecurity Regulation and marks the Department’s first action pursuant to the Regulation, which is enforced by the recently created NYDFS Cybersecurity Division.1
NYDFS’s Statement seeks relief against First American, including civil monetary penalties and an order requiring First American to remediate any defined violations. Although the Statement does not include a calculation of the total penalty, the NYDFS explains that the civil monetary fines against First American are to be assessed pursuant to the Financial Services Law, which provides for a maximum civil monetary penalty of $1,000 per violation of the Regulation.2 Because First American’s violations included the exposure of millions of documents containing nonpublic information (NPI), the total penalty potentially could be substantial. The First American hearing is scheduled to occur on October 26, 2020, at the NYDFS.
The last two weeks have brought two important (although unrelated) rulings on the TCPA’s Autodialer Restrictions. First, on June 25, the Federal Communications Commission limited the applicability of the autodialer restrictions in the Telephone Consumer Protection Act, 47 U.S.C. § 227 (the “TCPA”), to an emerging texting technology. Second, less than two weeks later, the Supreme Court ruled that an exception to the TCPA’s autodialer restrictions for calls to collect federal debts was unconstitutional and expanded the statute’s reach.
The California Privacy Rights Act (CPRA), a proposed initiative to codify far-reaching amendments to the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) and sometimes referred to as “CCPA 2.0”, is back in play and heading to the November 2020 ballot. A series of dramatic procedural twists and turns culminated with initiative backers successfully obtaining a writ of mandate directing the Secretary of State to direct counties to verify signatures for the ballot proposal by the June 25th Constitutional deadline. This verification involved each county conducting a random sample of the more than 800,000 signatures that proponents had submitted to place the initiative on the ballot.
Before the California court’s ruling, observers were skeptical that signatures could be verified before the deadline. Initiative proponents were almost two weeks behind the recommended schedule when they delivered signatures to be verified by California’s 58 counties. This meant counties had until June 26th to verify signatures — a day after the June 25th Constitutional deadline. Experience with other initiatives this year had shown that several large counties were waiting until the deadline to complete verifications, so proponents petitioned the court to push the deadline up by a day in order to meet the Constitutional deadline. The court agreed to do so, finding good cause existed to force counties to complete verifications a day early. And, as it happened, the extra time was not needed, as counties finished the count two days ahead of their initial deadline.
On June 1, 2020, California’s Office of the Attorney General (“AG”) moved one step closer to finalizing the California Consumer Privacy Act (“CCPA”) regulations when the AG submitted proposed final regulations for review and approval by California’s Office of Administrative Law (“OAL”). This submission signals the end of the AG’s CCPA regulation drafting process that began in early 2019. If the OAL approves the proposed final regulations, they will be finalized and enforceable by the AG, subject to any legal challenges.
On April 30, 2020, four Republican Senators announced plans to introduce the COVID-19 Consumer Data Protection Act. The four Senators, John Thune (R-S.D), Roger Wicker (R-Miss.), Jerry Moran (R-Kan.), and Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.), are all Members of the Commerce Committee, with Wicker the Committee’s chair.
According to the April 30 Senate press release regarding the COVID-19 Consumer Data Protection Act, the legislation would “provide all Americans with more transparency, choice, and control over the collection and use of their personal health, geolocation, and proximity data” for data processing related to fighting the COVID-19 pandemic. The press release also states that the bill would “hold businesses accountable to consumers if they use personal data to fight the COVID-19 pandemic.” Under the bill, covered purposes include “(1) collecting, processing, or transferring the covered data of an individual to track the spread, signs, or symptoms of COVID-19; (2) collecting, processing, or transferring the covered data of an individual to measure compliance with social distancing guidelines or other requirements related to COVID-19 that are required by federal, state, or local government order; (3) collecting, processing, or transferring the covered data of an individual to conduct contact tracing for COVID-19 cases.” (more…)
The U.S. Departments of State, the Treasury and Homeland Security and the Federal Bureau of Investigation issued a joint advisory (the Advisory) on April 15, 2020, discussing the threat to the international community posed by cyberattacks linked to the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (North Korea), in particular highlighting concerns for the financial services sector. North Korea has been subjected to comprehensive international sanctions implemented to pressure its government to denuclearize. The U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) has implemented additional unilateral sanctions in response to other North Korean activities, including cyberattacks, human rights violations and money laundering. In addition to broad prohibitions on trade with North Korea, U.S. sanctions bar domestic financial institutions from conducting or facilitating any significant transaction in connection with trade with North Korea or on behalf of any person whose property has been blocked under executive orders imposing sanctions on North Korea. Foreign financial institutions risk secondary sanctions for engaging in the same. (more…)