Alan Friel Discusses Confusing Proposed Amendment to California Online Privacy Protection Act

Articles / September 23, 2013

Alan Friel authored the article, "Privacy law will confuse consumers, businesses," published in Daily Journal on September 23. The article covers an amendment to the California Online Privacy Protection Act and its potential effect on January 1,2014 if signed into law. The main goal of this bill is to create transparency regarding the collection and sharing of consumer data in connection with behavioral advertising, but the amendment would require disclosures regarding "do no track" and advertising that will likely further confuse consumers. Some consumers are concerned with the intrusiveness of behavioral advertising, to which the U.S. online advertising industry has responded with a self-regulatory notice and op-out program, which will also be extended to mobile in the next year. 

Also, there is no consistency between browsers and whether a do not track signal is the default, as well as what exactly do not track covers. The amendment language does not clarify any of this and would require website and mobile publishers to "[d]isclose whether other parties may collect personally identifiable information about an individual consumer's online activities over time and across different Web sites when a consumer uses the operator's Web site or service." Personally identifiable information is not clearly defined. This creates more work for operators that would have to keep track of self-proclaimed do not track mechanisms. 

This, in addition to failure to comply in the first place, creates a large burden for businesses and risk of hefty consequences. For California to approve of this amendment and to mandate do not track disclosure would be confusing to most and make compliance more difficult.