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Wendy Zhang focuses her practice on privacy and cybersecurity matters. Wendy provides compliance advice and guidance on the impact of evolving domestic and international privacy regimes. Click here to learn more about Wendy's practice. 

On January 30, 2020, the US Department of Defense (DoD) released version 1.0 of the Cybersecurity Maturity Model Certification (CMMC) framework, which is available here, with appendices available here. This highly anticipated 390-page release supersedes the prior draft versions, the last of which was released in December 2019. The DoD will begin requiring contractors to obtain certification under the CMMC later this year, giving companies in the supply chain little time to assess their obligations, identify and remediate cybersecurity weaknesses that might preclude their desired certification, retain an appropriate certification vendor and obtain the certification.

This certification process raises a host of legal considerations. For instance, the identification of cyber weaknesses requires a candid and thorough assessment that will result in a list of the areas where the contractor’s cybersecurity is lacking. This list may be critical in mitigating cyber risks, helping to plan for certification and in reducing the business risks that would result from a failed certification effort, but it also can be highly damaging from a legal risk perspective, especially in the hands of plaintiffs’ lawyers or regulators that may want to use it to support allegations of inadequate security. The same information required to support certification could be used to establish that a DoD contractor knew of risks and failed to take action.

These considerations underscore the importance of involving legal counsel in the process and taking steps to support a claim that key self-critical deliverables are protected under attorney-client and/or work-product privileges, while also ensuring that the contractor fully prepares for CMMC certification.

Why Did the DoD Create the CMMC?

The DoD created the CMMC to combat malicious cyber actors targeting intellectual property in the DoD’s supply chain, as such attacks threaten economic security and national security. The CMMC encompasses the security requirements for controlled unclassified information (CUI) specified in NIST SP 800-171 for DFARS Clause 252.204-7012 as well as the basic safeguarding requirements for federal contract information (FCI) specified in FAR Clause 52.204-22.


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The California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) has forced companies across the United States (and even globally) to seriously consider how they handle the personal information they collect from consumers. By its terms, however, the CCPA only protects the privacy interests of California residents; other “copy-cat” privacy laws proposed or enacted in other states similarly would only protect the rights of residents of each state. Given the burden on businesses imposed by the rapid proliferation of privacy and data protection laws, including data breach notification obligations, requirements for data transfer mechanisms imposed by international data protection laws (such as the EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR)), and the imposition of a variety of data subject rights, a comprehensive US federal privacy bill appears increasingly overdue.

In the past year, US legislators have proposed a wide variety of data privacy laws—none of which seems to have gained significant traction. In November 2019, two new proposals were released in the Senate: the Consumer Online Privacy Rights Act (COPRA), sponsored by Senate Democrats, and the United States Consumer Data Privacy Act of 2019 (CDPA), proposed by Senate Republicans. Both proposals require covered entities to:


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The California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) requires businesses who engage in sales of personal information, to offer consumers the right to opt out of such sales through a “Do Not Sell My Personal Information” link or button on their websites. These “Do Not Sell” obligations present a particularly thorny question for businesses that participate in a digital ad exchange or otherwise use advertising tracking technologies on their websites. Because data elements such as IP address, cookie ID, device identifier and browsing history are considered “personal information” for purposes of the CCPA, the question is: does sharing that information with third-party ad tech providers constitute a “sale” of data?

The answer, so far, is a resounding “maybe.” In what follows, we expand on the issue and survey different approaches to this hotly contested question.

Why the Debate?

The CCPA defines a “sale” as “selling, renting, releasing, disclosing, disseminating, making available, transferring, or otherwise communicating orally, in writing, or by electronic or other means, a consumer’s personal information by the business to another business or a third party for monetary or other valuable consideration.” The Network Advertising Initiative (NAI) broke this definition down into three main elements that, when satisfied, might make the case that digital advertising involves a “sale.”

    • The digital advertising must involve “personal information.” We know that it does because serving digital ads requires, at the very least, access to IP address and browsing history.
    • The digital advertising must involve the movement of personal information from a business to another business or third party. This is often true for digital advertising relationships, as ad tech intermediaries and other participants in the ad exchange often use the personal information they have received from businesses for their own purposes, thus taking many ad tech entities outside of CCPA’s “service provider” safe harbor.
    • The digital advertising must involve the exchange of monetary or other valuable consideration for the personal information. This is a fact-specific inquiry that will vary across contractual arrangements. For that reason, the NAI analysis states it would be difficult to broadly categorize all digital advertising activities as “sales.” However, the NAI cautions that if the recipients of personal information can retain the information “for profiling or segmenting purposes” (e.g., the ability to monetize the data independently), that could be evidence of a “sale” of data.


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