New York Considers Aggressive Consumer Privacy Law
The California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA), which goes into effect January 1, 2020, is considered the most robust state privacy law in the United States. The CCPA seems to have spurred a flood of similar legislative proposals on the state level, and it was only a matter of time before the Empire State introduced its own version of the law. The New York Privacy Act (NYPA), s5642, introduced last month by New York Senator Kevin Thomas, the Chair of the Consumer Protection Committee, is considered a more expansive version of its California counterpart.
Similar to the CCPA, the NYPA would provide consumers with greater control over their personal data, and impose substantial duties on businesses that control and process data, however the NYPA is distinct from the CCPA in significant ways. Below are several key features of the NYPA:
Application: Unlike the CCPA, which only applies to businesses with a threshold of $25 million annual revenue, the NYPA applies to “legal entities that conduct business in New York” or that produce products or services that “intentionally target” New York residents. This means that small-to-medium size businesses, and potentially even not-for-profit organizations will be subject to the law’s privacy and security obligations. Organizations exempted include state and local governments, and personal data that is regulated by HIPAA, HITECH, GLBA and notably, “data sets maintained for employment records purposes.
Consumer Rights: The NYPA provides consumers a broad set of rights over their personal data. Consumer rights include: the right to access, the right to rectification, right to delete, right to stop processing and right to have data portability. This extends the rights afforded to consumers by the CCPA, as the CCPA does not include a right to rectification.
Privacy and Security Obligations: Under the NYPA, covered businesses would be required to “exercise the duty of care, loyalty and confidentiality . . . with respect to securing the personal data of a consumer against a privacy risk; and shall act in the best interests of the consumer, without regard to the interests of the entity, . . . in a manner expected by a reasonable consumer under the circumstances.” In addition businesses are required to “reasonably secure personal data from unauthorized access” and “promptly” notify consumers of a breach. Finally, the law prevents businesses from using personal data in a way that “(i) benefits an online service provider to the detriment of an end user; (ii) would result in reasonably foreseeable physical or financial harm to a consumer; or (iii) would be unexpected and “highly offensive” to a “reasonable consumer.”
Enforcement: The New York State Attorney General may bring an action in the name of the state, or on behalf of residents of the state, however a private right of action is also available to any person injured by reason of violation of the law. If passed, this enforcement provision would likely create an influx of litigation. A similar cause of action exists under an Illinois privacy law that you might have heard about, the Illinois Biometric Information Privacy Act or “BIPA.” That provision has resulted in flood of litigation, including putative class actions, seeking to recover statutory damages for plaintiffs who allege their biometric information has been collected and/or disclosed in violation of the statute. This is arguably the most significant difference between the CCPA. Despite several attempts to expand the private right of action, in its current form the CCPA only allows for a private right of action in very limited circumstances, if a nonencrypted or nonredacted personal information is subject to an unauthorized access, exfiltration, theft, or disclosure because the covered business did not meet its duty to implement and maintain reasonable safeguards to protect that information.
The NYPA is still in the very early stages of the legislative process – it has only been reviewed by the Senate’s Consumer Protection Committee, and is still looking for a co-sponsor from the state Assembly. Nonetheless, such an aggressive bill signifies the seriousness in which New York is considering privacy and security matters. Organizations, regardless of their location, should be assessing and reviewing their data collection activities, building robust data protection programs, and investing in written information security programs (WISPs).