Over the years, CalOPPA has been amended several times to take into account changes in technology. This year, CalOPPA again comes into the limelight. This time, it is because the Office of the Attorney General of the State of California has published a “CalOPPA Complaint Form” that the public can use to report, directly online, potential CalOPPA violations.
The Complaint Form is intended to facilitate the reporting of alleged violation of CalOPPA. It separates the potential offenses into five categories:
The entity failed to provide notice of a material change
The individual filing the report is allowed to tick more than one box, or all five of them. The form also leaves room for unspecified “additional information.”
Because of the imprecise use of language in the form, it is possible that use of this form may lead to the collection of irrelevant, unusable, or perhaps confusing information that might bring unnecessary attention to a business or its operations even where there is no violation of the law.
Further, the tool makes it very easy for consumers, and groups of consumers, to assert allegations against companies. The loose and imprecise language of the form and the ease of filing a complaint through the online tool may encourage activist consumer groups to make vague allegations as part of a campaign to address any perceived grievance.
Since most businesses with an online presence collect personal information of California residents, CalOPPA applies to most entities operating in the United States. Thus, any development regarding CalOPPA should be of concern to most entities selling to U.S. consumers. While the publication of the new tool should be acknowledged as an important outreach effort, it may have a wide variety of unintended consequences, from the collection of a large volume of undecipherable and irrelevant information, to enabling retaliation and activism. Its implications are yet to be seen and Greenberg Traurig will provide updates as necessary.