CPRA Analyzed

The CCPA follow on bill on the ballot in California will significantly change how the state regulates privacy, which will set the de facto standard for the U.S. in the absence of federal legislation.      

With the “California Privacy Rights Act” (CPRA) having been successfully added to the November ballot on which Californians will vote in November, it is worth taking a deeper look at a bill. This bill would replace the “California Consumer Privacy Act” (CCPA) (AB 375), which just came into full effect with the publishing of final regulations on 14 August. Nonetheless, as the Office of the Attorney General was drafting regulations, the organization that pushed for passage of the CCPA, Californians for Consumer Privacy (CCP), completed the drafting of a follow on bill. CCP Chair and Founder Alistair Mactaggart explained his reasoning for a second ballot initiative: “[f]irst, some of the world’s largest companies have actively and explicitly prioritized weakening the CCPA…[and] [s]econd, technological tools have evolved in ways that exploit a consumer’s data with potentially dangerous consequences.” Moreover, if polling released earlier this month by CCP is close to being accurate, then an overwhelming majority of Californians support enactment of the CPRA, meaning a significantly new privacy scheme will come into effect in the new few years in California.

Of course, it may be fair to assert this bill looks to solve a number of problems created by the rush in June 2018 to draft a bill all parties could accept in order to get the CCPA removed from the ballot. Consequently, the CCPA package that was enacted was sloppily drafted in some places with inconsistent provisions that necessitated two rounds of legislation to fix or clarify the CCPA.

As under the CCPA, the CPRA would still not allow people to deny businesses the right to collect and process their personal information unlike some of the bills pending in Congress. Californians could stop the sale or sharing of personal information, but not the collection and processing of personal data short of forgoing or limiting online interactions and many in-person interactions. A person could request the deletion of personal information collected and processed subject to certain limitations and exceptions businesses are sure to read as broadly as possible. Additionally, a new agency would be created to police and enforce privacy rights, but legitimate questions may be posed about its level of resources. Nonetheless, the new statute would come into effect on 1 January 2023, leaving the CCPA as the law of California in the short term, and then requiring businesses and people to adjust to the new regime.

In the findings section CCP explicitly notes the bills introduced to weaken or rollback the CCPA as part of the reason as to why the CPRA should be enacted. Changes to the California Code made by ballot initiative are much harder to change or modify than the legislative route for enacting statutes. Notably, the CPRA would limit future amendments to only those in furtherance of the act, which would rule out any attempts to weaken or dilute the new regime. Moreover, the bill looks at privacy rights through the prism of an imbalance in information and is founded on the notion that should people in California have more information and real choice in how and when their personal data is shared, proceeded, and collected, then the most egregious data practices would stop. Of course, this conceptual framework differs from the one used by others in viewing data collection and processing as being more like pollution or air quality, situations any one individual is going to have limited impact over, thus necessitating collective government action to address deleterious effects. In the view of the CCP, Californians will be on better footing to negotiate their privacy with companies like Facebook and Google. Notably, the CCP asserted:

  • In the same way that Ingredient labels on foods help consumers shop more effectively, disclosure around data management practices will help consumers become more informed counterparties In the data economy, and promote competition, Additionally, if a consumer can tell a business not to sell his or her data, then that consumer will not have to scour a privacy policy to see whether the business Is, In fact, selling that data, and the resulting savings in time Is worth, in the aggregate, a tremendous amount of money.
  • Consumers should have the information and tools necessary to limit the use of their information to non-invasive, pro-privacy advertising, where their personal information is not sold to or shared with hundreds of businesses they’ve never heard of, If they choose to do so. Absent these tools, it will be virtually Impossible for consumers to fully understand these contracts they are essentially entering into when they interact with various businesses.

The CPRA would change the notification requirements for businesses interested in collecting, processing, and sharing personal data in Section 1798.100 of the Civil Code (i.e. language added by the CCPA and some of the follow bills the legislature passed.) This requirement would be binding on the companies that control collection and not just the entities doing the actual collecting, which suggests concern that the ultimate user of personal data would be shielded from revealing its identity to people. Worse still, the CCPA language may create an incentive to use front companies or third parties to collect personal data. Moreover, the CPRA makes clear that if a company is using another company to collect personal data it will ultimately control, it may meet its notice requirements by posting prominently on its website all the enumerated information. This may be a loophole large companies may use to avoid informing people who is controlling data collection.

The new language that tightens the information people must be provided as part of this notice, namely the purposes for which personal data is collected or used and whether the entity is proposing to sell or share this information. Moreover, the CPRA would mandate that the notice also include any additional purposes for which personal data are collected and used “that are incompatible with the disclosed purpose for which the personal information was collected.”

The changes to Section 1798.100 and the underlying CCPA language that would remain will apply to a new category of information created by the CPRA: “sensitive personal information.” This term is defined to mean:

  • personal Information that reveals
    • a consumer’s social security, driver’s license, state Identification card, or passport number;
    • a consumer’s account log-In, financial account, debit card, or credit card number in combination with any required security or access code, password, or credentials allowing access to an account;
    • a consumer’s precise geolocation;
    • a consumer’s racial or ethnic origin, religious or philosophical beliefs, or union membership;
    • the contents of a consumer’s mail, email and text messages, unless the business Is the Intended recipient of the communication;
    • a consumer’s genetic data; and
  • the processing of biometric Information for the purpose of uniquely identifying a consumer;
  • personal Information collected and analyzed concerning a consumer’s health; or
  • personal Information collected and analyzed concerning a consumer’s sex life or sexual orientation.

However, should any of these data be “publicly available” as defined by the CPRA, then it is no longer subject to the heightened requirements normally due this new class of information. For example, the new notice people must be given will list the categories of sensitive personal information collected and the purposes for which such information is collected or used. Additionally, people must be told whether this subset of personal data will be shared or sold.

The CPRA would limit collection, use, processing, and sharing of personal data to purposes “reasonably necessary and proportionate” to achieve the purpose of the information collection. Quite clearly, much will hang on what turns out to be “reasonable,” and this may be construed by the new data protection agency in regulation and ultimately courts in litigation. However, this provision also allows the “collection, use, retention, and sharing of a consumer’s personal information…for another disclosed purpose that Is compatible with the context in which the personal information was collected.” This will also need fleshing out either by regulation or litigation, or both. This seems to allow companies to specific another purpose for its data activities so long as it is compatible with the context of collection. And yet, it is not clear what would determine compatibility. If a person is agreeing to a grocery store chain’s data activities, might the company legally try to collect information regarding a person’s health?

This section also requires businesses to enter into contracts with third parties, service providers, and contractors to ensure they follow the CPRA and to specify that information sold or shared by the business is for limited and specific purposes.

Businesses are obligated to use “reasonable security procedures and practices appropriate to the nature of the personal information to protect the personal Information from unauthorized or illegal access, destruction, use, modification, or disclosure.” This is a familiar construct that contemplates a sliding scale of security measures with lesser steps being all right for less valuable information, say deidentified data, but with higher standards being needed for more sensitive personal data. The challenge in such a regime is that reasonable minds might theoretically disagree about reasonable measures, but it may be the purview of the caselaw construing the CPRA that will point the way to how businesses should secure information.

Section 1798.105 spells out a person’s right to delete personal information and expands the obligation of businesses to direct their service providers and contractors to delete information upon receipt of a valid request. Third parties would be notified of deletion requests and expected to also delete unless doing so would be impossible or “involves disproportionate effort,” a term likely to be given as expansive a reading as possible by many businesses. There still are numerous exceptions for deletion requests, many of which will also likely be read expansively by businesses reluctant to honor deletion requests, including:

  • Complete the transaction for which the personal information was collected, fulfill the terms of a written warranty or product recall conducted In accordance with federal low, provide a good or service requested by the consumer, or reasonably anticipated by the consumer within the context of a business’s ongoing business relationship with the consumer, or otherwise perform a contract between the business and the consumer.
  • Help to ensure security and integrity to the extent the use of the consumer’s personal information Is reasonably necessary and proportionate for those purposes.
  • Debug to identify and repair errors that Impair existing Intended functionality.
    Exercise free speech, ensure the right of another consumer to exercise that consumer’s right of free speech, or exercise another right provided for by law.
  • To enable solely internal uses that are reasonably aligned with the expectations of the consumer based on the consumer’s relationship with the business and compatible with the context in which the consumer provided the Information.
  • Comply with a legal obligation.

However, the CPRA eliminated the exception that could be used to deny deletion requests in the CCPA that allowed a business to “use the consumer’s personal information, internally, in a lawful manner that is compatible with the context in which the consumer provided the information.”

The CPRA creates a new section, 1798.106, titled “Consumers’ Right to Correct Inaccurate Personal Information,” that requires businesses to correct inaccurate personal information in light of the type of information and why it is being processed. Businesses must disclose that people have this right if a person submits a verifiable request to correct inaccurate personal information. However, companies are only required to make reasonable commercial efforts in correcting inaccurate personal information. It appears that a rulemaking is necessary to flesh out what would be a reasonable commercial efforts.

Section 1798.110 is amended by the CPRA but more or less keeps the CCPA’s right to know about and access being collected about them with some significant changes. For example, there is an expansion of one of the categories businesses must provide to people who utilize this right. This category is the commercial or business purpose for which collection and selling of personal information must be given to requesters currently under the CCPA. Under the CPRA, businesses would also need to inform people of the other entities with whom they share personal information, thus closing a significant loophole, for companies like Facebook share people’s information but do not sell it. Under the CCPA, a Facebook would not need to divulge to a person with which companies it is sharing one’s information.

Also, the CPRA would deem in compliance those companies that post on its website the categories of personal information, the sources of this information, its business or commercial purposes, and the categories of third parties to whom personal information is disclosed. It seems likely many companies will go this route, meaning the only personal information they would need to furnish upon a request would be the specific pieces of information on the person making the request. And yet, the CRPA strikes the CCPA requirement that businesses keep personal information for one-time transactions or to reidentify or link to these data.

Section 1798.115 of the CCPA would also be changed by expanding the universe of data a person may request and receive regarding how their personal information is shared and sold. The CPRA keeps the basic structure of the CCPA in this regard and merely expands it to include shared as well as sold for the following:

  • The categories of personal information sold or shared and the categories of third parties to whom such information was sold or shared
  • The categories of personal information disclosed about a person for business purposes and the categories of persons to whom such information was disclosed

Third parties would be barred from selling or sharing personal information that has been sold to or shared with them unless they provide explicit notice and people have the opportunity to opt-out.

The CRPA similarly changes Section 1798.120 (aka the right to opt out of the sharing or selling of one’s personal information). However, it keeps the CCPA’s right to opt out of sales or sharing at any time. Likewise, teenagers between 13-16 would need to affirmatively agree to selling or sharing, and for any child less than 13, his or her parents must affirmatively agree.

A new Section 1798.121, a “Consumers’ Right to Limit Use and Disclosure of Sensitive Personal Information,” would allow people to stop businesses from collecting and using sensitive personal information in some cases. As a general matter, if a person limits collection or use of this class of information, then the business would be limited to “that use which is necessary to perform the services or provide the goods reasonably expected by an average consumer who requests such goods or services” subject to some of the exceptions embodied in the definition of “business purpose.” Businesses may, however, provide notice of additional uses of sensitive personal information a person must further limit if these new uses ore objectionable or unwanted.

The CPRA changes the provision barring retaliation against people who opt out of certain practices or use their CCPA rights. The general prohibition on punishing people who use their rights under the bill with different prices, services, or products would be maintained. The CPRA would expand this protection to employees, contractors, and applicants for employment. However, the CPRA keeps the CCPA exemption for so-called loyalty programs to offer different prices or services but only if the difference is reasonably related to the value the person’s data provides to the business. The CCPA contains language requiring the linkage to be directly related, this is change may seen as a subtle weakening of the connection between the value of a person’s data and the rewards or prices offered through membership in a loyalty program. This will almost certainly result in businesses in California using current programs or establishing new programs to press people to share personal information in exchange for better prices or services. After all, all they would need to do is show the value of the person’s data is reasonably related to the advantages of membership. Like other similar provisions in the bill, regulation and litigation will define the parameters of what is reasonably related. Like the CCPA, the new bill would require people to opt into such programs, and should a person refuse, the business would need to wait 12 months before making the offer again.

Many of the previously discussed changes to the CCPA necessitate alterations to a key section of the statute, Section 1798.130, that details notice, disclosure, correction, and deletion requests. Businesses with physical locations must still offer two means for people to make such requests, but the CPRA would allow online businesses to merely make available an email address. Anyone who has ever tried to resolve disputes and problems via email knows this process can often be frustrating, but the new statute would allow companies like Facebook or Google to merely offer an email address.

The new 1798.130 also makes clear the 45-day window for businesses to deliver required information to people after receiving a verified request also includes making requested corrections and deletions. A potential hurdle is established for requests, however. In light of the type of information in question, a business may seek to authenticate a person’s identity before granting the request but may not force a person to create an account with the business if they do not have one. To be fair, this provision may be aimed at the mischief that could be created if a person decides to impersonate someone else and ask businesses to delete their personal information. There are likely even other such possible situations in which havoc could be wreaked by a malicious person.

In any event, the disclosure of information would need to cover the previous 12 months under the CPRA, and after new regulations are put in place, people would be able to ask for and receive information stretching back before the preceding 12 months. But such a request could be denied on the grounds of impossibility or disproportionate effort. Presumably the new regulations would address when these types of situations may be the case. Another limitation on this right is that businesses would not need to provide information before 1 January 2022.

If a person submits requests to learn what type of personal information has been collected or has been sold or shared to a business’ contractor or service provider, they have no obligation to respond. And yet, these entities must assist a business that receives such requests.

The CPRA stipulates that businesses are required to provide the following types of information if person asks for the data the entity has:

the categories of sources from which the consumer’s personal information was collected; the business or commercial purpose for collecting, or selling or sharing the consumer’s personal information; and the categories of third parties to whom the business discloses the consumer’s personal information.

A business is also obligated to provide the “specific pieces of personal information obtained from the consumer in a format that is easily understandable to the average consumer, and to the extent technically feasible, in a structured, commonly used, machine-readable format, which also may be transmitted to another entity at the consumer’s request without hindrance.”

Regarding the type of information a business must give to people who ask to know what, if any, information was sold or shared about them, a business must furnish two lists:

  • A list of the categories of personal information It has sold or shared about consumers in the preceding 12 months by reference to the enumerated category or categories in [the revised definition of personal information and new definition of sensitive personal information] that most closely describe the personal Information sold or shared, or If the business has not sold or shared consumers’ personal information in the preceding 12 months, the business shall prominently disclose that fact in Its privacy policy.
  • A list of the categories of personal information it has disclosed about consumers for a business purpose in the preceding 12 months by reference to the enumerated category in subdivision (c) that most closely describes the personal information disclosed, or If the business has not disclosed consumers’ personal information for a business purpose In the preceding 12 months, the business shall disclose that fact.

The categories of personal information a business must provide are “information that identifies, relates to, describes, is reasonably capable of being associated with, or could reasonably be linked, directly or indirectly, with a particular consumer or household. Personal information includes, but is not limited to, the following if it identifies, relates to, describes, is reasonably capable of being associated with, or could be reasonably linked, directly or indirectly, with a particular consumer or household:

(A) Identifiers such as a real name, alias, postal address, unique personal Identifier, online identifier, Internet Protocol address, email address, account name, social security number, driver’s license number, passport number, or other similar identifiers.

(B) Any personal information described in subdivision (e) of Section 1798.80.

(C) Characteristics of protected classifications under California or federal law.

(D) Commercial information, including records of personal property, products or services purchased, obtained, or considered, or other purchasing or consuming histories or tendencies.

(E) Biometric information.

(F) Internet or other electronic network activity information, including, but not limited to, browsing history, search history, and information regarding a consumer’s interaction with an Internet website, application, or advertisement.

(G) Geolocation data.

(H) Audio, electronic, visual, thermal, olfactory, or similar Information. (I) Professional or employment-related Information.

(J) Education information, defined as information that is not publicly available personally Identifiable information as defined In the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (20 U.S.C. section 1232g, 34 C.F.R. Part 99).

(K) Inferences drawn from any of the Information identified in this subdivision to create a profile about a consumer reflecting the consumer’s preferences, characteristics, psychological trends, predispositions, behavior, attitudes, intelligence, abilities, and aptitudes.

The CPRA modifies the CCPA standards on links on a business’ website allowing people to opt out of the sale or sharing of personal information. It also adds a requirement that such a link be placed on a website to allow people to opt out of the use or disclosure of sensitive personal information. A business would now be allowed to have one link for both if it wants, and it would also be allowed to remind people of the advantages of being a member of the business’ loyalty program and any associated charges or fees with not joining. This provision would seem to allow some businesses, at least those who can make the case of a reasonable relation between the discounts provided and the value of personal information, to pose a possibly uncomfortable dilemma to people: your privacy or your money. Put another way, the CPRA may well result in a price being put on one’s privacy with those of means or those intensely dedicated to privacy being able or willing to limit these practices while everyone else will acquiesce in the face of higher prices of worse services or products. Additionally, companies would not need to have links on their website if they allow for opting out through their platform, technology, or app.

If a person opts out, companies would have to wait 12 months before asking again whether they would not mind allowing the business to sell or share their personal information or use of disclose their sensitive personal information. But, one should bear in mind that even if a person opts out of the sale or sharing of personal information, a business may still collect or process it subject to other requirements in the CPRA. This right is limited to the dissemination of personal information through sales or a sharing arrangement.

The CPRA revises some key definitions and introduces new definitions, the most significant of which was discussed earlier: sensitive personal information. Another key change is to criteria for businesses subject to the CPRA. Each of the three thresholds for becoming a regulated business are changed:

  • First, language is changed to make clear a company must have earned $25 million in gross revenues in the preceding year to qualify on the basis of income.
  • Second, the threshold for the number of people is changed. It is raised from 50,000 to 100,000, and instead of counting people and devices, the latter is stricken and now households may be counted. Obviously, a household will likely include multiple devices, so counting by household allows for a higher threshold generally. Also, the counting is limited to the activities of businesses buying, selling, or sharing personal information, and so mere collection and processing is not counted, meaning if a business does not partake in any of the three enumerated categories, it would not qualify under this prong even if collects and processes the personal information of, say, 1 million Californians.
  • Thirdly, the threshold for businesses deriving 50% or more of their income selling consumers’ personal information is broadened to include sharing, meaning more entities might qualify on the basis of this prong.

Also, of note, the definition of business purpose was altered, and new definitions are provided for consent, contractor, cross-context behavioral advertising, dark pattern, non-personalized advertising and others.

The section on exemptions to the bars in the CCPA is rewritten and expanded by the CPRA. Businesses may disregard the obligations placed on by this privacy statute under a number of circumstances. For example, added circumstances include complying with a subpoena or court order or responding to direction by law enforcement agencies. Moreover, government agencies would able to make emergency requests for personal information to business if acting in good faith, asserts a legal right to do so, and follows with a court order within 3 days. There is also language that adds contractors to the CCPA’s provisions on the liability of a business for violations by its service providers that requires actual knowledge of such violations.

The CPRA keeps the CCPA’s grant of authority to allow people to sue for violations but casually tightens the circumstances under which this may happen to those in which one’s personal information is not encrypted and not redacted. The CCPA allows for a suit if a person’s personal information is neither encrypted nor redacted. Consequently, if a business uses either method of securing information it cannot be sued.

As noted, the bill would establish a California Privacy Protection Agency that would take over enforcement of the revised CCPA from the Office of the Attorney General. It would consist of a five-member board including a chair. At the earlier date of either 1 July 2021 or six months after the new agency informs the Attorney General it is ready to begin drafting rules, it shall have rulemaking authority. However, before this date, the Attorney General may have the authority or opportunity to begin some of the CPRA rulemakings during an interregnum that may serve to complicate implementation. Nonetheless, among other powers, the new agency would be able to investigate and punish violations with fines of up $2,500 per violation except for intentional violations and those involving the personal information of minor children, which could be fined at a rate of $7,500 per violation. Like the Federal Trade Commission, the California Privacy Protection Agency would be able to bring administrative actions inside the agency or go to court to sue. However, this new entity would only be provided $5 million during its first year and $10 million a year thereafter, which begs the question as to whether the new agency will be able to police privacy in California in a muscular way.

© Michael Kans, Michael Kans Blog and michaelkans.blog, 2019-2020. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Michael Kans, Michael Kans Blog, and michaelkans.blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Image by David Mark from Pixabay

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