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Brexit/GDPR: European Commission Publishes Draft Adequacy Decision for Data Transfers

On 19 February 2021, the European Commission published the draft for an adequacy decision regarding transfers of personal data to the UK. For businesses in the European Union (and EEA) who transfer data to business partners and vendors in the UK, it will be crucial that the final decision is made before the end of June 2021.

Thanks to an additional transitional period for data transfers in the last-minute EU-UK Trade and Cooperation Agreement (TCA), the worst fears of data protection experts that the UK could become a “third country” overnight did not materialise. However, this period ends no later than in June 2021.

While the chances that final decision will be issued in time have now increased, companies in the EU/EEA should be aware that this is not guaranteed. In case the Commission fails to authorize data transfers to the UK, businesses should – if no other safeguards are present – be prepared enter into the standard contractual clauses (SCCs, aka Model Contracts) in order to comply with the GDPR.

McDermott can help you with identifying data transfers to the UK and choosing the right SCCs.




California Voters Approve the California Privacy Rights Act

On November 3, 2020, California voters passed the California Privacy Rights Act (CPRA) ballot initiative with slightly under 60% of votes to approve the measure (as of publication). The ballot initiative, which was submitted by the architects of the California Consumer Privacy Act of 2018 (CCPA), had earlier garnered 900,000 signatures—far more than the roughly 625,000 necessary for certification on the 2020 ballot.

The CPRA amends the CCPA, adds new consumer rights, clarifies definitions and creates comprehensive privacy and data security obligations for processing and protecting personal information. These material changes will require businesses to—again—reevaluate their privacy and data security programs to comply with the law.

Effective date and timeline for enforcement

The CPRA amendments become operative on January 1, 2023, and will apply to personal information collected by businesses on or after January 1, 2022 (except with respect to a consumer’s right to access their personal information). Enforcement of the CPRA amendments will not begin until July 1, 2023.

The CCPA’s existing exemptions for business contacts, employees, job applicants, owners, directors, officers, medical staff members and independent contractors will remain in effect until December 31, 2022.

The newly created California Privacy Protection Agency (“Agency”) will be required to adopt final regulations by July 1, 2022. For more information about the Agency and its role in enforcing the amended CCPA, see our previous article.

The passage of the CPRA does not affect the enforceability of the CCPA as currently implemented.

New rights under the CPRA

In addition to the CCPA’s rights to know, to delete, and to opt out of the sale of personal information, the CPRA creates the following new rights for California consumers:

  • The right to correct personal information
  • The right to limit the use of sensitive personal information
  • The right to opt out of the “sharing” of personal information

These rights are explained in greater detail in our previous article.

New compliance obligations for businesses subject to the CPRA?

The CPRA creates new obligations that are similar to the data processing principles found in the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). Such responsibilities include:

  • Transparency: Businesses must specifically and clearly inform consumers about how they collect and use personal information and how they can exercise their rights and choice;
  • Purpose limitation: Businesses may only collect consumer’s personal information for specific, explicit and legitimate disclosed purposes and may not further collect, use or disclose consumers’ personal information for reasons incompatible with those purposes;
  • Data minimization: Businesses may collect consumers’ personal information only to the extent that it is relevant and necessary to the purposes for which it is being collected, used and shared;
  • Consumer rights: Businesses must provide consumers with easily accessible means to obtain their personal information, delete it or correct it, and to opt out of its sale and the sharing across business platforms, services, businesses and devices, and to limit the use of their sensitive information; and
  • Security: Businesses are required to take reasonable precautions to [...]

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New Proposed CCPA Regulations Add Clarity to Process for Opting Out of Sale of Personal Information

On October 12, 2020, the California Department of Justice announced the release of a new, third set of proposed modifications to the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) regulations. The proposed modifications amend a final set of regulations that were approved by the California Office of Administrative Law just two months earlier.

The Third Set of Proposed Modifications to the CCPA Regulations released on October 12 do not make substantial changes to the previously final set of CCPA regulations. The majority of the proposed modifications serve to clarify existing requirements rather than add new requirements or materially alter existing ones. As a result, the new proposed modifications should help businesses better understand what is expected to maintain compliance with certain aspects of the CCPA.

Process for Opting Out of Sale of Personal Information

The Department of Justice proposed to amend Sections 999.306(b)(3) and 999.315(h) to provide more detail about how a business should provide the right to opt out of the sale of personal information. Specifically, the Department of Justice:

  • Provides illustrative examples of how a business that collects personal information offline can provide its opt-out notice offline—through paper forms, posting signage directing consumers to an online notice or orally over the phone.
  • Makes clear that the methods for submitting opt-out requests should be easy for consumers to find and execute. For example, consumers should not have to search or scroll to find where to submit a request to opt out after clicking on the “Do Not Sell My Personal Information” link. A business should not use confusing language, try to impair a consumer’s choice to opt out or require a consumer to read through or listen to reasons why they should not opt out before confirming their request. In addition, the process for requesting to opt out shall collect only the amount of personal information necessary to execute the request.
Verifying Authorized Agent

The Department of Justice added language to Section 999.326(a) clarifying what a business may request to verify that an agent is authorized to act on a consumer’s behalf. Specifically, a business may require an authorized agent to provide proof of signed permission from the consumer for the agent to submit the request. In addition, the business may require the consumer to either verify their own identity directly with the business or directly confirm with the business that they provided the authorized agent permission to submit the request. Previously, a business had to go through the consumer to verify the authorized agent. Now, a business can verify the authorized agent directly.

Notices to Consumers Under 16 Years of Age

Finally, the Department of Justice clarified in Section 999.332(a) that all businesses that sell personal information about children must describe in their privacy policies the processes used to obtain consent from the child or parent (as applicable). Previously, the regulations were worded such that only a business that sells the personal information of both consumers under 13 and consumers between 13 [...]

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OFAC Advisory Warns of Civil Penalties for Ransomware Payments

On October 1, 2020, the US Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) issued an advisory alert that serves as a warning to entities who have been or will be the victim of a ransomware attack. As such, the crucial decision of whether to pay a ransom now comes with the additional risk of legal scrutiny by a powerful federal agency and the possibility of steep fines.

Access the article.




Double Trouble for Data Transfers Post-Brexit and Post-Schrems II?

On 16 July 2020, Europe’s highest court, the CJEU, ruled in Data Protection Commissioner v. Facebook Ireland Limited, Maximillian Schrems that individuals in Europe had insufficient redress against US bulk interception rules when their personal data was transferred to the United States under the US Department of Commerce “Privacy Shield” mechanism. This ruling followed a long running campaign by the activist, Max Schrems, who’s prior case to the CJEU invalidated the predecessor to the Privacy Shield, the Safe Harbor.

It is a general tenet of European data protection law that, when personal data is exported from the European Union, any further processing must be to European standards unless the local data protection laws are considered “adequate” by the European Commission. Self-certification under the US Privacy Shield mechanism was a popular method for providing adequate data protection amongst US based service providers which had European customers and regularly needed to transfer personal data from Europe to the United States.

Schrems II impacts not only the over 5,300 US companies that enjoyed Privacy Shield self-certification, but also the many thousands of EU and US companies that rely upon US companies in their supply chain for data processing. This supply chain could include outsourcing, cloud services, data processing, data storage, telecommunications and the like.

Click here to read the full article, and many more in our latest International News: Focus on Global Privacy and Cybersecurity.




Schrems II Special Report: What Does the CJEU’s Decision Mean for Transfers From the EEA to the US?

For our Schrems II Practical Guidance special report, members of McDermott’s internationally recognized Global Privacy & Cybersecurity group have outlined practical guidance and next steps to ensure your business is prepared for what’s next following the final ruling in Data Protection Commissioner v. Facebook Ireland Limited, Maximillian Schrems.

As your organization navigates the post-Schrems II landscape following the CJEU’s recent decision, consider McDermott your first point of call. We have deep experience advising global clients on compliance with the complex array of privacy and cybersecurity obligations affecting data that crosses borders or relates to foreign employees and individuals.

Practical Guidance for Businesses (US Edition)

Practical Guidance for Businesses (Global – EEA/UK Edition)




Key Issues We’re Tracking as CCPA Enforcement Nears

Although 2020 has already provided more than its share of surprises for businesses, one thing appears to remain unchanged: the California attorney general’s commitment to enforcing the California Consumer Privacy Act beginning July 1, 2020. As companies work to ensure compliance with this legislation, we explore several key issues.

No one will disagree that a lot has happened since the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) went into effect on January 1, 2020. Despite the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, the invasion of murder hornets and a number of other not-entirely pleasant surprises that 2020 has brought us thus far, it appears that the California attorney general is still committed to enforcing the CCPA starting on July 1, 2020. As your business prepares for CCPA enforcement, there are a number of issues to keep in mind:

1. The CCPA regulations still have not been finalized and are unlikely to take effect until October 2020.

The attorney general’s regulations, which aim to interpret and implement the important provisions of the CCPA, still have not been finalized. March 27, 2020, marked the end of the comment period for the current draft regulations (which was the second set of modifications released by the attorney general). We are now waiting to see whether the attorney general will issue yet another set of proposed modifications, or submit the current version to the California Office of Administrative Law (OAL) for approval. For the regulations to take effect July 1, the OAL would need to receive and approve the final regulations by May 31, which appears to be an unlikely scenario. Accordingly, the regulations likely will not take effect until October 1, and could potentially be delayed until 2021. As a result, companies should be prepared for CCPA enforcement to begin before the regulations take effect.

2. We’ve started to see the effects of the private right of action.

California consumers have begun to file lawsuits seeking to enforce their (purported) rights under the CCPA. The cases present a first opportunity for courts to examine the private right of action created by the law. One case, in particular, presents a potentially unanticipated theory of harm, and could prove fundamental in establishing the extent of liability for businesses subject to the CCPA. We describe these lawsuits in greater detail here. Because these lawsuits will begin to define the contours and scope of the CCPA, businesses subject to the CCPA should keep a close eye on their progress.

3. The Office of the Attorney General lacks enforcement resources.

As we wrote in a previous article, despite significant enforcement expenditures by the Office of the Attorney General (OAG), it is still an agency with limited resources. This is even more true now that more of the OAG’s resources are likely devoted to COVID response and related urgent priorities. Many expect that the OAG will only be able to pursue a limited number of CCPA enforcement actions, particularly if, as expected, it takes on large and well-funded companies. Media reports continue to indicate that the attorney [...]

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Importance of CCPA Compliance Highlighted by First Round of Private Actions

The first wave of California Consumer Privacy Act litigation has begun to roll in, and the complaints are already raising interesting questions about the scope of CCPA’s private right of action. The actions assert a variety of claims under numerous theories and present a broad range of potential risks to businesses subject to CCPA. In light of the many questions that surround CCPA’s private right of action, the extent of possible liability from private litigation is still largely unknown and potentially significant.

The first wave of private lawsuits filed under the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) has begun to roll in, and the complaints are already raising interesting questions about the scope of CCPA’s private right of action. The recent explosion in popularity of video conferencing and social media software in response to the COVID-19 pandemic—and the technical issues some of these products have experienced—has inspired its own wave of litigation, with several cases alleging violations of CCPA along with other laws. The flurry of litigation activity makes clear the importance of CCPA compliance, particularly in the current challenging business environment. Although it’s too early to tell how these lawsuits will play out, some themes are emerging.

Refresher on CCPA Private Right of Action

Businesses are now familiar with the long list of privacy obligations imposed by CCPA and enforceable by the California attorney general. Although CCPA contains a private right of action, that right is applicable only to CCPA’s sole data security provision. Cal. Civ. Code § 1798.150 authorizes consumers to institute a civil action against a business whose failure to implement and maintain reasonable security procedures resulted in the unauthorized access and exfiltration, theft or disclosure of the consumer’s nonencrypted and nonredacted personal information. The definition of “personal information” in the context of § 1798.150 is narrower than the expansive definition applicable to other CCPA provisions, applying only to an individual’s name together with an identifying data element, such as a Social Security number, driver’s license number or medical information. A plaintiff may seek injunctive or declaratory relief, actual damages or statutory damages in an amount not less than $100 and not greater than $750 per consumer, per incident. Before seeking statutory damages, however, the consumer must provide the business 30 days’ written notice to cure the alleged violation. The “notice and cure” provision is the subject of some controversy, because CCPA does not explain how a violation that resulted in a data breach can be “cured.” CCPA also explicitly prohibits consumers from using alleged violation of its provisions “to serve as the basis for a private right of action under any other law,” thus, in theory, prohibiting a plaintiff from alleging that a CCPA violation constitutes a violation of the California Unfair Competition Law, Cal. Bus. & Prof. Code §§ 17200, et seq. or other statutes. That hasn’t stopped plaintiffs from trying, as described below.

Theme #1: Suits Brought as Class Actions

Most, if not all, of the lawsuits brought under CCPA thus far have been brought as [...]

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New California Privacy Ballot Initiative Would Expand the CCPA

A proposed ballot initiative in California known as the California Privacy Rights Act, which is likely to pass if placed on the 2020 ballot, would both clarify and expand the existing California Consumer Privacy Act. Companies doing business in the state should closely monitor these developments and prepare for compliance, as we outline in this article.

A California ballot initiative known as the California Privacy Rights Act (CPRA) would clarify and expand the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA), granting significant new rights to consumers and imposing additional liability risks on companies doing business in the state. The CPRA is an update to the California Privacy Rights and Enforcement Act (CPREA) ballot initiative, which was proposed in late 2019 by the Californians for Consumer Privacy, which also sought to broadly amend and prevent changes to the CCPA that would undermine its consumer protections.

The proposed ballot initiative, submitted by the architects of the CCPA, garnered 900,000 signatures, far more than the roughly 625,000 necessary for certification on the 2020 ballot. Early polling reportedly shows strong support for the measure, so assuming the signatures are approved and the CPRA is placed on the ballot, it is considered likely to pass and to take effect on January 1, 2023.

The CPRA proposes a myriad of changes, and this article will not address them all. What follows is a discussion of the most significant changes for businesses and consumers in California, followed by enforcement and implementation considerations.

New Clarifications, Rights and Responsibilities

In a number of areas, the CPRA would modify the current CCPA in ways that are likely to be welcomed by companies grappling with the often ambiguous and unclear obligations under the current law:

  • “Personal information” would no longer include information that is manifestly made public by the individual or the media.
  • Businesses that receive deletion requests would be expressly permitted to maintain records of these requests for compliance purposes.
  • Consumers could no longer require a business to generate a list of “the categories of personal information it has collected about that consumer” in response to access requests.
  • “Service providers” and “contractors” (a new term that appears to replace the “third party” contract provisions) would not need to respond directly to consumer requests to access or delete information.

However, these changes are largely overshadowed by the initiative’s imposition of significant new rights for consumers and responsibilities for businesses subject to the CCPA. These include the following requirements:

  • Businesses would need to contend with a new opt-out right to “Limit the Use of My Sensitive Personal Information,” which would require enhanced scrutiny of business practices involving certain “sensitive” categories of information. These sensitive categories of information are reminiscent of (but broader than) the categories of information typically regulated by US data breach notification statutes or are considered “special categories” under the EU General Data Protection Regulation. For purposes of the CPRA, “sensitive” categories will include certain government identifiers (Social Security number, driver’s license, state identification card or passport number); a [...]

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Public Backlash Calls Use of Facial Recognition Systems into Question

In recent weeks and months, legal and technical issues related to use of facial recognition systems in the United States have received national attention, including concerns that the technology lacks accuracy in identifying non-white individuals and that its widespread use by police departments may play a role in racially discriminatory policing. Privacy considerations will play a key role in the ongoing debate over the future of facial recognition technology.

Facial recognition systems (FRS) are automated or semi-automated technologies that analyze an individual’s features by extracting facial patterns from video or still images. FRS use attributes or features of an individual’s face to create data that can be used for the unique personal identification of a specific individual. FRS use has grown exponentially in recent years. In addition to widespread adoption by law enforcement agencies, FRS are also frequently used in retail, banking and security sectors, such as airport screening. Particularly in recent weeks and months, legal and technical issues associated with FRS have come to the forefront, including concerns that the technology lacks accuracy in identifying non-white individuals and that its widespread use by police departments may play a role in racially discriminatory policing.

In response to the global Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, public health agencies and private sector companies have considered ways that FRS might be used in conjunction with proximity and geolocation tracking data to control the disease’s spread. Some foreign governments have implemented extensive biometric and behavioral monitoring to track and contain the spread of the virus, and have used FRS to identify persons who have been in contact with COVID-19-positive individuals and to enforce quarantine or stay-at-home orders. By contrast, use of FRS in the United States already faced opposition because of pre-COVID-19 data privacy concerns, and has encountered increased backlash after the civil rights protests of the past month due to concerns over the technology’s accuracy and accompanying questions regarding its use by law enforcement agencies.

Accuracy Concerns

There are currently no industry standards for the development of FRS, and as a result, FRS algorithms differ significantly in accuracy. A December 2019 National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) study, the third in a series conducted through its Face Recognition Vendor Test program, evaluated the effects of factors such as race and sex on facial recognition software. The study analyzed 189 facial recognition algorithms from 99 developers, using collections of photographs with approximately 18 million images of eight million people pulled from databases provided by the US Department of State, the Department of Homeland Security and the Federal Bureau of Investigation. The study found disproportionately higher false positive rates for African American, Asian and Native American faces for one-to-one matching, and higher rates of false positives for African American females for one-to-many matching. The effect of the high rate of false positives for African American females put this group at the greatest risk of misidentification. While law enforcement is encouraged to adopt a high threshold recognition percentage—often 99%—for the use of FRS, in reality police departments exercise [...]

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