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Privacy & Cybersecurity Issues to Watch in 2020: Happy Privacy Day!
Tuesday, January 28, 2020

2020 may very well be the most impactful year for data privacy and cybersecurity in the United States. In honor of Data Privacy Day, we discuss some of the reasons why that may be the case. In short, as privacy and cybersecurity risks continue to emerge for organizations large and small, the law is beginning to catch up which is prompting a significant uptick in compliance efforts.

The California Consumer Privacy Act and Its Admirers

On January 1, 2020, the long anticipated, hotly debated, and already amended California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) went into effect.  According to a survey conducted by ComplianceWeek.com, however, nearly 80% of respondents felt either “somewhat confident,” “uncertain,” or “not confident at all” they would be compliant by the effective date. These results may be due to a variety of reasons: a lack of awareness or resources, reliance on the extended CCPA enforcement date (July 1, 2020), a belief that the California Attorney General enforcement efforts will be directed elsewhere, and/or anticipation of final regulations/further guidance from the California Attorney General.

Nonetheless, many businesses are working on CCPA compliance: mapping consumer data; providing notices at collection to consumers, employees, and applicants; updating websites and privacy policies; building internal procedures to verify and respond to consumer requests; and tightening their safeguards for protecting personal information. These efforts are worthwhile for many businesses as they are likely to yield dividends beyond California.

Following California’s lead, a number of other states have introduced similar measures in 2020 regarding individual privacy rights.  These legislative efforts include: Florida (SB 1670HB 963); Hawaii (SB 418SB 2451); Illinois (SB 2330); Maryland (HB 249); Nebraska (LB 746); New Hampshire (HB 1680); New Jersey (S269S236A2188); Vermont (H. 899); Virginia (HB 473); Washington HB 2759). Earlier efforts began in 2019: New Mexico (SB 176); New York (A 6351S 4411); Pennsylvania (HB 1049); Rhode Island (S 234H 5930); and Texas (HB 4518). All of these measures may fail, but California’s influence on state privacy law is considerable. Remember, the country’s first data breach notification law became effective in 2003 in California, and now all 50 states have such a law, including a number of other countries.

Adoption of Biometric Technology Grows, Along with Regulation

SourceToday.com reports that “by 2025, Zion Market Research expects the global next-generation biometric market to reach $36.8 billion, up from $12.9 billion last year.” The same report cites Deloitte’s 2018 global mobile consumer survey (US edition) which finds that at least one biometric authentication method is used by nearly half of U.S. smartphone owners. The trend for biometrics is on the rise.

Organizations which collect and use biometric identifiers/information (e.g. fingerprints, face scans, etc.) should be mindful of the increasing privacy and data security regulation around biometric technologies and applications.  While biometrics may be helpful in preventing fraud, managing employees’ time, or improving security, these benefits must be considered against the potential legal and compliance risks.

The most critical of these risks exists in Illinois under its Biometric Information Privacy Act (BIPA). Under BIPA a plaintiff is entitled to statutory damages for violations and actual harm is not required in order for an individual to sue.  BIPA is at the heart of hundreds of putative class action lawsuits in Illinois. Compliance steps such as obtaining consent prior to collection or use and establishing a written policy may help mitigate risk.  For more information on the BIPA and biometric information related concerns checkout our CCPA FAQs.

Of course, BIPA does not present the only compliance concern. In California, for example, the CCPA includes biometric information as a specific category of personal information, and following a change in 2019, a breach of biometric information could trigger a notification requirement. Other states regulating biometric information in one for or another include without limitation Arkansas, Colorado, Florida, Massachusetts, Nebraska, New York, Texas, and Washington.

Organizations’ Websites Provide a Window Into Compliance

Websites facilitate communication with consumers, constituents, patients, employees, and the general public. They project an organization’s image and promote goodwill, provide information about products and services and allow for their purchase. Websites also inform investors about performance, enable job seekers to view and apply for open positions, and accept questions and comments from visitors to the site or app, among many other activities and functionalities. Because of this vital role, websites have become an increasing subject of regulation making them a growing compliance concern, particularly as they are open to inspection by the public.

CCPA privacy policies, ADA accessibility, HIPAA notice of privacy practices, and COPPA consent mandates are just a few of the compliance requirements affecting websites and online applications or services. In 2020 and beyond, organizations will need to take a closer look at these and other compliance issues concerning their websites and online services.

Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA)

While the Supreme Court did not choose to address whether the Hobbs Act (also known as the Administrative Orders Review Act) requires a district court to accept the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) interpretation of the TCPA (PDR Network, LLC v. Carlton & Harris Chiropractic, Inc., No. 17-1705) there have been a number of other developments impacting the TCPA.  In December 2019, the FCC ruled that online faxes are TCPA exempt and the Supreme Court recently accepted certiorari of a petition to rule on the constitutionality of the TCPA.  In granting certiorari, the Court agreed to review a ruling of the Fourth Circuit which held that a TCPA exemption for government debt collectors was in violation of the First Amendment.   The case could have a significant impact on TCPA claims.  Further, Congress recently proposed the TRACED Act, to combat the increasing number of robocall scams and other intentional violations of telemarketing laws. The TRACED Act, if passed, broadens FCC authority to levy civil penalties and extends the time period for the FCC to catch and take civil enforcement action against intentional violations.  Needless to say, 2020 should be an interesting year for the TCPA.

Cybersecurity, Cybersecurity, and Cybersecurity

rundown of anticipated, critical cybersecurity risks vying for attention at the upcoming RSA Conference in 2020 (the world’s biggest conference for CISOs) should provide reason enough for organizations to redouble their efforts at tightening security. But that is not all.

Less than two months from now, New York’s Stop Hacks and Improve Electronic Data Security Act (SHIELD Act) becomes effective, imposing expansive data security requirements on companies. Among other things, and similar to data security frameworks in other states such as California, Colorado, Massachusetts, and Oregon, the SHIELD Act requires that any person or business, including a small business, that owns or licenses computerized data which includes private information of a resident of New York must develop, implement and maintain reasonable safeguards to protect the security, confidentiality and integrity of the private information.

Examples of practices considered reasonable administrative safeguards under the law include risk assessments, employee training, selecting vendors capable of maintaining appropriate safeguards and implementing contractual obligations for those vendors, and disposal of private information within a reasonable time period.

Similar frameworks already exist in other states. For example, in 2018, Colorado enacted HB 1128, creating obligations for businesses to maintain “reasonable security procedures and practices” for protecting personal identifying information. Similar rules have been in place since 2010 in Massachusetts. Requirements for reasonable safeguards to protect personal information also exist in numerous other states such as Alabama, Florida, Nevada, Illinois, Indiana, and Utah.

But, we will end where we began, the CCPA. We believe it will be an important driver of “reasonable safeguards” for personal information. This is because similar to BIPA, the CCPA authorizes a private cause of action against a covered business if a failure to implement reasonable security safeguards results in a data breach. If successful, a plaintiff can recover statutory damages in an amount not less than $100 and not greater than $750 per consumer per incident or actual damages, whichever is greater, as well as injunctive or declaratory relief and any other relief the court deems proper.  As the CCPA provides for statutory damages, Plaintiffs in these lawsuits may not have to show actual harm or injury to recover.

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For these reasons and others, we believe 2020 will be a significant year for privacy and data security.

Happy Privacy Day!

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