Any Intro to Civics course teaches that lawmakers exist to enact the will of the people. Moreover, since “the people” have recently become very concerned with the security of their data and the privacy of their online activity, it’s perhaps reassuring to see the recent nationwide bloom of state-based digital privacy legislation.
California’s CCPA got the headlines because of the size of the market and the easy comparison to Europe’s GDPR. However, in other states across the country, legislators have quietly passed, or are in the late stages of passing bills that parallel California’s Privacy Law. In some cases, the measures are even more far-reaching. This article examines recent legislative updates in Nevada, New York, Vermont, South Carolina, and Colorado. It demonstrates how privacy regulation is not confining to the West Coast and is very much concern US-wide.
DISCLAIMER: It’s important to note that the landscape is rapidly evolving in the area of privacy regulation. It’s a dynamic, exciting area. So even though what follows is an accurate synopsis of the state of play in late September 2019, don’t be surprised if this list gets dated quickly. As always, this article shouldn’t get interpreted as actual legal advice!
Nevada: Senate Bill 220
Nevada has already passed a new piece of privacy legislation, Senate Bill 220. It will go into effect on October 1, 2019, three months before it’s better-known neighbors enact their CCPA. Many observers believe Nevada’s law is more onerous. It requires a broader range of businesses to offer consumers an opt-out regarding the sale of their personal information. Since it’s going into effect before the CCPA, this will make Senate Bill 220 the first in the U.S. to grant opt-out rights to consumers.
In some aspects, Nevada’s bill is a little more lenient than the CCPA; for instance, it doesn’t add new notice requirements for website owners. However, the per-violation fine amount is $5,000 – twice as high as California’s. So getting privacy wrong in Nevada state lines could prove even more costly to a business.
New York: Stop Hacks and Improve Electronic Security (SHIELD) Act
New York signed the SHIELD Act into law on July 25, 2019, and the bulk of its provisions go into effect on October 23, 2019. The SHIELD Act is more incremental in scope than the other pieces discussed previously. It doesn’t carry any language around opt-out rights, and it’s less concerned with day-to-day online activities. Instead, it focuses on defining and setting processes around actual data breach events.
To this end, the SHIELD Act expands the scope of information subject (to include biometric information) and the scope of possible breach scenarios. It also updates the procedures that companies must follow in the event of a data breach. Lastly, the SHIELD Act creates data security requirements that scale according to the size of the business. This part of the Act goes into effect on March 21, 2020.
Conscious NYPA is dead/on hold right now but probably worth mentioning? HERE is a good summary of the main points that were considered even more aggressive than CCPA and also why it got killed by lobbyists.
Vermont became the first state in the union to regulate “data brokers” with a piece of legislation. It came into effect on January 1, 2019. Vermont’s law has a comparatively narrow application. In their case, “data broker” denotes “a business or unit/s of a business, separately or together, that knowingly collects and sells or licenses to third parties the brokered personal information of a consumer with whom the business does not have a direct relationship.” This direct relationship provision means that if a business is, for example, selling directly to consumers online, they’re not bounding by the constraints of this law.
That said, once an entity is considered a data broker, there are quite rigorous processes that must get followed. Data brokers must register annually with the Vermont Secretary of State for a fee of $100 and provide a substantial amount of information to the state regarding the robustness and security of its data operation. Failure to do so can result in a fine up to a maximum of $10,000 per year.
South Carolina also joined the cohort of states taking data protection into its own hands, with a law that came into effect on January 1, 2019. The South Carolina Insurance Data Security Act is focused on the insurance sector and seeks to establish standards and processes that insurers – deemed licensees – must follow in the event of a cybersecurity breach.
Licensees are now legally required to formally document a data security program. Upon conducting a thorough audit and risk assessment of their operation, the plan must cover risk management. Additionally, it must cover cybersecurity event investigation and reporting, notification, and ongoing compliance certification.
Lastly, we come to Colorado, which was the very first state to put a signature modern digital privacy law into effect. HB 18-1128 requires organizations to put controls in place for managing PII (including biometric data). The commands needed fall under these broad areas:
- The storage of PII
- The destruction of physical and electronic materials that contain PII
- Investigation and notification in the event of data breaches
- Liaising with the Colorado attorney general in the investigation and reporting in certain data breach circumstances
This brief overview shows that data privacy isn’t just a concern for businesses operating in California, despite what the news headlines would lead one to believe. Data privacy should be treated as a United States-wide concern for any business, as the trend is very visibly towards state-by-state regulation, each with broad thematic consistency but essential variations in focus and scope. The complexity will only increase as more states get up to speed on the topic. Worth mentioning that state by state is the trend in the short term, but the conversation for a federal law has already started to avoid more complex state by state regulations.