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Montana becomes the ninth state to enact comprehensive privacy legislation
On May 19, the Montana governor signed SB 384 to enact the Consumer Data Privacy Act (CDPA) and establish a framework for controlling and processing consumer personal data in the state. Montana is now the ninth state in the nation to enact comprehensive consumer privacy measures, following California, Colorado, Connecticut, Virginia, Utah, Iowa, Indiana, and Tennessee. The CDPA applies to any person that conducts business in the state or produces products or services targeted to state residents and, during a calendar year, (i) controls or processes personal data of at least 50,000 consumers (“excluding personal data controlled or processed solely for the purpose of completing a payment transaction”), or (ii) controls or processes personal data of at least 25,000 consumers and derives 25 percent of gross revenue from the sale of personal data. The CDPA provides several exemptions, including nonprofit organizations, registered securities associations, financial institutions, data governed by the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act and certain other federal laws, and covered entities governed by the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act. Highlights of the CDPA include:
- Consumers’ rights. Under the CDPA, consumers will be able to access their personal data; correct inaccuracies; request deletion of their data; obtain a copy of their data in a portable format; and opt out of the sale of their data. A consumer may also designate an authorized agent to act on the consumer’s behalf to opt out of the processing of their personal data.
- Data controllers’ responsibilities. Data controllers under the CDPA will be responsible for, among other things, (i) responding to consumer requests within 45 days unless extenuating circumstances arise and providing requested information free of charge, one for each consumer during a 12-month period; (ii) establishing a process to allow consumer appeals within a reasonable time period after a controller’s refusal to take action on a consumer’s request; (iii) establishing clear and conspicuous opt-out methods on a website that require consumers to affirmatively and freely choose to opt out of any processing of their personal data (and allowing for a mechanism that lets consumers revoke consent that is at least as easy as the mechanism used to provide consent); (iv) limiting the collection of data to what is adequate, relevant, and reasonably necessary for a specified purpose; (v) securing personal data from unauthorized access; (vi) processing data in compliance with state and federal anti-discrimination laws; (vii) obtaining consumer consent in order to process sensitive data; (viii) providing clear and meaningful privacy notices; and (ix) conducting data protection assessments and ensuring deidentified data cannot be associated with a consumer. The CDPA also sets forth obligations relating to contracts between a controller and a processor, including ensuring that contracts between a controller and a processor do not waive or limit consumer data rights.
- No private right of action but enforcement by state attorney general. The CDPA explicitly prohibits a private right of action. Instead, it grants the state attorney general excusive authority to enforce the law.
- Right to cure. Upon discovering a potential violation of the CDPA, the attorney general must give the data controller notice. The data controller then has 60 days to cure the alleged violation before the attorney general can file suit. The cure provision expires April 1, 2026.
The CDPA takes effect October 1, 2024.
FTC, DOJ sue maker of health app over data sharing
On May 17, the DOJ filed a complaint on behalf of the FTC against a health app for violating the Health Breach Notification Rule (HBNR) by allegedly sharing users’ sensitive personal information with third parties, disclosing sensitive health data, and failing to notify users of these unauthorized disclosures. According to the complaint, users were allegedly repeatedly and falsely promised via privacy policies that their health information would not be shared with third parties without the user’s knowledge or consent, and that any collected data was non-identifiable and only used for the defendant’s own analytics or advertising. The FTC charged the defendant with failing to implement reasonable measures to address the privacy and data security risks created by its use of third-party automated tracking tools and for sharing health information used for advertising purposes without obtaining users’ affirmative express consent. Under the HBNR, companies with access to personal health records are required to notify users, the FTC, and media outlets in certain situations, if there has been an unauthorized acquisition of unsecured personal health information. The defendant also allegedly failed to impose limits on how third parties could use the data and failed to adequately encrypt data shared with third parties, thus subjecting the data to potential interception and/or seizure by bad actors.
The proposed court order would require the defendant to pay a $100,000 civil penalty, and would permanently prohibit the company from sharing personal health data with third parties for advertising and from making future misrepresentations about its privacy practices. The defendant would also be required to (i) obtain user consent before sharing personal health data; (ii) limit data retention; (iii) request deletion of data shared with third parties; (iv) provide notices to users explaining the FTC’s allegations and the proposed settlement; and (v) implement comprehensive security and privacy programs to protect consumer data. The defendant has also agreed to pay a total of $100,000 to Connecticut, the District of Columbia, and Oregon (who collaborated with the FTC on the action) for violating state privacy laws with respect to its data sharing and privacy practices.
FTC proposes changes to Health Breach Notification Rule
On May 18, the FTC issued a notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) and request for public comment on changes to its Health Breach Notification Rule (Rule), following a notice issued last September (covered by InfoBytes here) warning health apps and connected devices collecting or using consumers’ health information that they must comply with the Rule and notify consumers and others if a consumer’s health data is breached. The Rule also ensures that entities not covered by HIPPA are held accountable in the event of a security breach. The NPRM proposed several changes to the Rule, including modifying the definition of “[personal health records (PHR)] identifiable health information,” clarifying that a “breach of security” would include the unauthorized acquisition of identifiable health information, and specifying that “only entities that access or send unsecured PHR identifiable health information to a personal health record—rather than entities that access or send any information to a personal health record—qualify as PHR related entities.” The modifications would also authorize the expanded use of email and other electronic methods for providing notice of a breach to consumers and would expand the required content for notices “to include information about the potential harm stemming from the breach and the names of any third parties who might have acquired any unsecured personally identifiable health information.” Comments on the NPRM are due 60 days after publication in the Federal Register.
The same day, the FTC also issued a policy statement warning businesses against making misleading claims about the accuracy or efficacy of biometric technologies like facial recognition. The FTC emphasized that the increased use of consumers’ biometric information and biometric information technologies (including those powered by machine learning) raises significant consumer privacy and data security concerns and increases the potential for bias and discrimination. The FTC stressed that it intends to combat unfair or deceptive acts and practices related to these issues and outlined several factors used to determine potential violations of the FTC Act.
Tennessee becomes 8th state to enact comprehensive privacy legislation
On May 11, the Tennessee governor signed HB 1181 to enact the Tennessee Information Protection Act (TIPA) and establish a framework for controlling and processing consumers’ personal data in the state. Tennessee is now the eighth state in the nation to enact comprehensive consumer privacy measures, following California, Colorado, Connecticut, Virginia, Utah, Iowa, and Indiana. TIPA applies to any person that conducts business in the state or produces products or services targeted to residents and, during a calendar year, (i) controls or processes personal data of at least 100,000 Tennessee residents or (ii) controls or processes personal data of at least 25,000 Tennessee residents and derives 50 percent of gross revenue from the sale of personal data. TIPA provides for several exemptions, including financial institutions and data governed by the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act and certain other federal laws, as well as covered entities governed by the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act. Highlights of TIPA include:
- Consumers’ rights. Under TIPA, consumers will be able to access their personal data; make corrections; request deletion of their data; obtain a copy of their data in a portable format; request what categories of information were sold or disclosed; and opt out of the sale of their data.
- Controllers’ responsibilities. Data controllers under TIPA will be responsible for, among other things, (i) responding to consumers’ requests within 45 days unless extenuating circumstances arise and providing requested information free of charge, up to twice annually for each consumer; (ii) establishing an appeals process to allow consumer appeals within a reasonable time period after a controller’s refusal to take action on a consumer’s request; (iii) limiting the collection of data to what is required and reasonably necessary for a specified purpose; (iv) not processing data for reasons incompatible with the specified purpose; (v) securing personal data from unauthorized access; (vi) not processing data in violation of state or federal anti-discrimination laws; (vii) obtaining consumer consent in order to process sensitive data; (viii) ensuring contracts and agreements do not waive or limit consumers’ data rights; and (ix) providing clear and meaningful privacy notices. TIPA also sets forth obligations relating to contracts between a controller and a processor.
- No private right of action but enforcement by state attorney general. TIPA explicitly prohibits a private right of action. Instead, it grants the state attorney general excusive authority to enforce the law and seek penalties of up to $15,000 per violation and treble damages for willful or knowing violations. The attorney general may also recover reasonable expenses, including attorney fees, for any initiated action.
- Right to cure. Upon discovering a potential violation of TIPA, the attorney general must give the data controller written notice. The data controller then has 60 days to cure the alleged violation before the attorney general can file suit.
- Affirmative defense. TIPA establishes an affirmative defense for violations for controllers and processors that adopt a privacy program “that reasonably conforms” to the National Institute of Standards and Technology Privacy Framework and complies with required provisions. Failing “to maintain a privacy program that reflects the controller or processor's data privacy practices to a reasonable degree of accuracy” will be considered an unfair and deceptive act or practice under Tennessee law.
TIPA takes effect July 1, 2024.
EU court says non-material damages in unlawful data processing may be eligible for compensation
On May 4, the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) issued a judgment concluding that while not every infringement of the EU’s data protection law gives rise, by itself, to a right to compensation, non-material damage resulting from unlawful processing of data can be eligible for compensation. The CJEU reviewed questions posed by the Austrian Supreme Court on whether a mere infringement of the GDPR is sufficient to confer the right to compensation for individuals suffering non-material damages, and whether such compensation is possible only if the non-material damage suffered reaches a certain degree of seriousness. The Austrian Supreme Court also asked the CJEU to clarify what the EU-law requirements are when determining the amount of damages.
The CJEU clarified that the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) does not set thresholds for the “seriousness” of damages needed to confer a right to compensation. “[I]t is clear that the right to compensation provided for by the GDPR is subject to three cumulative conditions: infringement of the GDPR, material or non-material damage resulting from that infringement and a causal link between the damage and the infringement,” the court said in the announcement. Limiting the right to compensation to non-material damage that reaches a certain threshold requirement would be contrary to the broad conception of “damage” outlined in EU law, the CJEU explained, pointing out that obtaining compensation based on a certain threshold would result in different outcomes depending on a court’s assessment. Moreover, the CJEU emphasized that because the GDPR does not contain any rules governing the assessment of damages, it is up to the each member state’s legal system to prescribe detailed rules for actions intended to safeguard individual’s rights under the GDPR, as well as the criteria for determining the amount of compensation, provided the determination complies with the principles of equivalence and effectiveness. The CJEU explained in its ruling that “an infringement of the GDPR does not necessarily result in damage, and  that there must be a causal link between the infringement in question and the damage suffered by the data subject in order to establish a right to compensation.”
ID verifier to pay $28.5 million to settle BIPA allegations
On May 5, the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois preliminarily approved an amended class action settlement in which an identification verification service provider agreed to pay $28.5 million to settle allegations that it violated the Illinois Biometric Information Privacy Act (BIPA). According to the plaintiffs, the defendant collected, stored, and or used class members’ biometric data without authorization when they uploaded photos and state IDs on a mobile app belonging to one of the defendant’s customers. After the court denied the defendant’s move to compel arbitration and determined the plaintiff had standing to pursue his BIPA claims, the parties entered into settlement discussions without the defendant admitting any allegations or liability. The court certified two classes: (i) Illinois residents who uploaded photos to the defendant through the app or website of a financial institution (class members will receive $15.7 million); and (ii) Illinois residents who uploaded photos through a non-financial institution (class members will receive $12.8 million). A final approval hearing will determine attorney’s fees and expenses and incentive awards.
Indiana becomes seventh state to enact comprehensive privacy legislation
On May 1, the Indiana governor signed SB 5 to establish a framework for controlling and processing consumers’ personal data in the state. Indiana is now the seventh state in the nation to enact comprehensive consumer privacy measures, following California, Colorado, Connecticut, Virginia, Utah, and Iowa (covered by Special Alerts here and here and InfoBytes here, here, here, and here). The Act applies to any person that conducts business in the state or produces products or services targeted to residents and, during a calendar year, (i) controls or processes personal data of at least 100,000 Indiana residents or (ii) controls or processes personal data of at least 25,000 Indiana residents and derives more than 50 percent of gross revenue from the sale of personal data. The Act outlines exemptions, including financial institutions and data subject to the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act, as well as covered entities governed by the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act.
Indiana consumers will have the right to, among other things, (i) confirm whether their personal data is being processed and access their data; (ii) correct inaccuracies; (iii) delete their data; (iv) obtain a copy of personal data processed by a controller; and (v) opt out of the processing of their data for targeted advertising, the sale of their data, or certain profiling. The Act outlines data controller responsibilities, including a requirement that controllers must respond to consumers’ requests within 45 days unless extenuating circumstances arise. The Act also limits the collection of personal data “to what is adequate, relevant, and reasonably necessary in relation to the purposes for which such data is processed, as disclosed to the consumer,” and requires controllers to implement data security protection practices “appropriate to the volume and nature of the personal data at issue” and conduct data protection assessments for processing activities created on or generated after December 31, 2025, that present a heightened risk of harm to consumers. Under the Act, controllers may not process consumers’ personal data without first obtaining consent, or in the case of a minor, without processing such data in accordance with the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act. Additionally, the Act sets forth obligations relating to contracts between a controller and a processor.
While the Act explicitly prohibits its use as a basis for a private right of action, it does grant the state attorney general exclusive authority to enforce the law. Additionally, upon discovering a potential violation of the Act, the attorney general must give the controller or processor written notice and 30 days to cure the alleged violation before the attorney general can file suit. The attorney general may seek injunctive relief and civil penalties not to exceed $7,500 for each violation.
The Act takes effect January 1, 2026.
House committee continues federal privacy legislation discussions
On April 27, the House Subcommittee on Innovation, Data, and Commerce, a subcommittee of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, held a hearing entitled “Addressing America’s Data Privacy Shortfalls: How a National Standard Fills Gaps to Protect Americans’ Personal Information” to continue discussions on the need for comprehensive federal privacy legislation. Subcommittee Chair Gus Bilirakis (R-FL) delivered opening remarks, commenting that the Committee has examined in depth how a federal privacy law is needed to protect Americans and balance the needs of business, government and civil society, what happens when malicious actors exploit access to data, where the FTC’s jurisdictional lines and authority lay and how that interplays with a comprehensive federal privacy law, and the role of data brokers and the lack of protections given to consumers to manage their data.
During the hearing, subcommittee members commented that one of the big debates about the American Data Privacy and Protection Act (ADPPA) as it came out of committee last year was the degree to which it should preempt state laws. There was push back on the bill from former Speaker Nancy Pelosi who was against the proposed preemption measures, as well as from the California attorney general and the California Privacy Protection Agency who expressed similar concerns and asked Congress to “allow states to provide additional protections in response to changing technology and data privacy protection practices.” The ADPPA was advanced through the committee last July by a vote of 53-2 (covered by InfoBytes here) and was sent to the House floor during the last Congressional session but never came up for a full chamber vote. The bill has not been reintroduced yet.
Subcommittee members said that while drafting a comprehensive national data privacy law is a priority, there are a lot of concerns over preemption of state laws. Certain Republican members also commented that it is very important for Congress to create a single national standard before the FTC proposes data privacy rules from its commercial surveillance rulemaking efforts. As previously covered by InfoBytes, FTC Chair Lina M. Khan and Commissioners Rebecca Slaughter and Alvaro Bedoya testified before the same committee in April, during which time they said they are currently reviewing comments on the proposed rulemaking but support federal privacy legislation.
While the ADPPA has not yet been reintroduced, House Financial Services Committee Chairman Patrick McHenry (R-NC) introduced the Data Privacy Act of 2023 (see H.R. 1165) earlier this year, which would, among other things, modernize the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act to better align the statute with the evolving technological landscape and ensure consumers understand how their data is being collected and used and grant consumers power to opt-out of the collection of their data and request that their data be deleted at any time.
Washington State passes new health data privacy measures
The Act is effective July 23. Regulated entities must comply by March 31, 2024, except for certain provisions applicable to small businesses that have until June 30, 2024 to comply.
CFPB proposal would apply ATR requirements to PACE financing
On May 1, the CFPB announced a proposed rule which would prescribe ability-to-repay (ATR) rules to residential Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) financing and apply TILA’s civil liability provisions for violations. The proposal, required by Section 307 of the Economic Growth, Regulatory Relief, and Consumer Protection Act, would amend Regulation Z to address how TILA applies to PACE transactions to account for the unique nature of PACE loans. PACE loans are designed to finance clean energy improvements on a borrower’s home and are secured by that residence. The Bureau explained that the loans are repaid through a borrower’s property tax payments, which increase over time and which remain with the property even if the borrower sells the property.
If finalized, the proposed rule would require lenders to assess a borrower’s ability to repay a PACE loan and would (i) clarify an existing exclusion to Regulation Z’s definition of credit relating to tax liens and tax assessments to provide that this specific exclusion “applies only to involuntary tax liens and involuntary tax assessments”; (ii) make several adjustments to PACE financing loan estimate and closing disclosure requirements, including providing new model forms specifically designed for PACE transactions, and exempting PACE transactions from the requirement to establish escrow accounts for certain higher-priced mortgage loans and from the requirement to provide periodic statements; (iii) prescribe ATR requirements for residential PACE financing that account for the unique nature of these transactions; (iv) provide that a PACE transaction is not a qualified mortgage; (v) extend TILA Section 130’s ATR requirements and liability provisions to any “PACE company” with substantial involvement in making credit decisions for a PACE transaction; and (vi) clarify how PACE and non-PACE mortgage creditors should consider pre-existing PACE transactions when originating new mortgage loans.
The proposed effective date is at least one year after the final rule is published in the Federal Register (“but no earlier than the October 1 which follows by at least six months Federal Register publication”), with the possibility of a further extension to ensure compliance with a TILA timing requirement. Comments on the proposed rule are due July 26 or 30 days after publication in the Federal Register, whichever is later.
To accompany the proposed rule, the Bureau released several fast facts breaking down and clarifying proposed coverage and the suggested changes. The Bureau also released a data point report documenting research findings on PACE financing in California and Florida from July 2014 through June 2020. Among other things, the report found that PACE loans create an increase in negative credit outcomes for borrowers, particularly with respect to mortgage delinquency. Additionally, PACE borrowers were more likely to have higher interest rates and increased credit card balances and were more likely to live in census tracts with higher percentages of Black and Hispanic residents relative to the average for their states. The report noted that “PACE outcomes improved significantly in California after that State began requiring PACE companies to consider ability to pay before making a loan.”