Companies should not be prosecuted over any current violations of California's sweeping Consumer Privacy Act, given the COVID-19 pandemic, the Association of National Advertisers argues in a new filing with state Attorney General Xavier Becerra.
“Businesses are understandably focused on ensuring the health and safety of their workers and maintaining economic viability in the face of immense challenges,” the ANA writes in comments submitted Friday to Becerra. “Businesses should not be penalized under the CCPA for current conduct or activities when their attention is rightfully focused on the dire and important matter of managing the novel coronavirus.”
The ad group adds that privacy regulators in the United Kingdom have “suspended data protection regulatory actions during the outbreak.”
“The California Attorney General should follow the UK ... approach by refraining from using activities undertaken during this exceedingly difficult present period as a hook for enforcement actions,” the ANA writes.
The California Consumer Privacy Act, which took effect Jan. 1, gives consumers the right to learn what personal information has been collected about them by companies, to have that information deleted, and prevent the sale of that data to third parties. Enforcement is slated to begin in July.
In its newest comments, the ANA also reiterates a request first made in January -- before COVID-19 significantly affected U.S. businesses -- for a six-month delay in enforcement. Earlier this month, the ANA and other business groups repeated that request, specifically citing COVID-19 as a new reason to postpone enforcement.
An advisor to Becerra said earlier this week that the attorney general is currently planning to move forward with enforcement as originally scheduled.
“Right now, we're committed to enforcing the law upon finalizing the rules or July 1, whichever comes first,” the advisor stated. “We're all mindful of the new reality created by COVID-19 and the heightened value of protecting consumers' privacy online that comes with it. We encourage businesses to be particularly mindful of data security in this time of emergency.”
The advocacy group Consumer Reports on Thursday urged Becerra to reject the request to postpone enforcement.
“The AG should reject the cynical attempt by many industry groups to use the recent coronavirus crisis to evade their responsibilities under the law,” the group wrote. “Companies making a good faith effort to comply with the CCPA have nothing to fear. Compliance should be fairly straightforward -- access, deletion, and opt-out of sale.”
On Friday, Consumer Reports policy analyst Maureen Mahoney urged Becerra to deny the ANA's request to refrain from prosecuting any current violations.
“It's absurd that the advertising industry wants to exploit COVID-19 to continue to sell consumer data without any ability for someone to object,” she stated.
She added that Becerra's office should “move ahead with its planned timelines for CCPA enforcement, including holding companies accountable for violations since January 2020.”