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Four key takeaways to CPRA, California’s latest privacy law

California is on the move again in the consumer privacy rights space. On Election Day 2020 California voters approved Proposition 24 the California Privacy Rights Act (CPRA). CPRA – commonly called CCPA 2.0 – builds upon the less than two year old California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) continuing the momentum to put more control over personal data in people’s hands, additional compliance obligations for businesses and creating a new California Protection Agency for regulation and enforcement

With federal privacy legislation efforts stagnating during the last years, California continues to set the tone and expectations that lead privacy efforts in the US. Mozilla continues to support data privacy laws that empower people, including the European General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), California Consumer Privacy Act, (CCPA) and now the California Privacy Rights Act (CPRA). And while CPRA is far from perfect it does expand privacy protections in some important ways.

Here’s what you need to know. CPRA includes requirements we foresee as truly beneficial for consumers such as additional rights to control their information, including sensitive personal information, data deletion, correcting inaccurate information, and putting resources in a centralized authority to ensure there is real enforcement of violations.

CPRA gives people more rights to opt-out of targeted advertising

We are heartened about the significant new right around “cross-context behavior advertising.” At its core, this right allows consumers to exert more control and opt-out of behavioral, targeted advertising — it will no longer matter if the publisher “sells” their data or not.

This control is one that Mozilla has been a keen and active supporter of for almost a decade; from our efforts with the Do Not Track mechanism in Firefox, to Enhanced Tracking Protection to our support of the Global Privacy Control experiment. However, this right is not exercised by default–users must take the extra step of opting in to benefit from it.

CPRA abolishes “dark patterns”

Another protection the CPRA brings is prohibiting the use of “dark patterns” or features of interface design meant to trick users into doing things that they might not want to do, but ultimately benefit the business in question. Dark patterns are used in websites and apps to give the illusion of choice, but in actuality are deliberately designed to deceive people.

For instance, how often the privacy preserving options — like opting out of tracking by companies — take multiple clicks, and navigating multiple screens to finally get to the button to opt-out, while the option to accept the tracking is one simple click. This is only one of many types of dark patterns. This behavior fosters distrust in the internet ecosystem and is patently bad for people and the web. And it needs to go. Mozilla also supports federal legislation that has been introduced focused on banning dark patterns.

CPRA introduces a new watchdog for privacy protection

The CPRA establishes a new data protection authority, the “California Privacy Protection Agency” (CPPA), the first of its kind in the US. This will improve enforcement significantly compared to what the currently responsible CA Attorney General is able to do, with limited capacity and priorities in other fields. The CPRA designates funds to the new agency that are expected to be around $100 million. How the CPRA will be interpreted and enforced will depend significantly on who makes up the five-member board of the new agency, to be created until mid-2021. Two of the board seats (including the chair) will be appointed by Gov. Newsom, one seat will be appointed by the attorney general, another by the Senate Rules Committee, and the fifth by the Speaker of the Assembly, to be filled in about 90 days.

CPRA requires companies to collect less data

CPRA requires businesses to minimize the collection of personal data (collect the least amount needed) — a principle Mozilla has always fostered internally and externally as core to our values, products and services. While the law doesn’t elaborate how this will be monitored and enforced, we think this principle is a good first step in fostering lean data approaches.

However, the CPRA in its current form still puts the responsibility on consumers to opt-out of the sale and retention of personal data. Also, it allows data-processing businesses to create exemptions from the CCPA’s limit on charging consumers differently when they exercise their privacy rights. Both provisions do not correspond to our goal of “privacy as a default”.

CPRA becomes effective January 1, 2023 with a look back period to January 2022. Until then, its provisions will need lots of clarification and more details, to be provided by lawmakers and the new Privacy Protection Agency. This will be hard work for many, but we think the hard work is worth the payoff: for consumers and for the internet.