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CRA President and CEO Rachel Michelin in SF Chronicle: Coronavirus sparks new fight over California’s internet privacy law

Dustin Gardiner May 5, 2020 Updated: May 5, 2020 4 a.m.

California Attorney General Xavier Becerra’s office is gearing up to enforce the state’s landmark internet privacy law, despite pleas from business groups that say they aren’t ready because of the coronavirus pandemic.

…If Becerra sticks to the law’s timetable, companies will face potential fines of up to $7,500 per violation in two months. That prospect has created anxiety for small brick-and-mortar shops already struggling to keep workers on the payroll, said Rachel Michelin, president of the California Retailers Association.

She said that anxiety is growing because Becerra’s office has yet to issue its final regulatory rules, detailed guidelines that tell businesses how to comply with the law. Michelin said that, at this point, businesses will have no more than a few weeks to master the regulations.

“We don’t know exactly yet what we’re complying to,” she said. “We need them to be able to bring their employees back. The goal should be to reignite the California economy.”

Some retailers, including Amazon and Walmart, are using thermometers to check the temperatures of employees when they come to work. Newsom has said temperature checks could also be used to fight the virus and help restaurants and other businesses reopen to in-person customers.

Michelin of the California Retailers Association said many businesses will probably have to figure out how to handle health data about their employees and customers without clear guidance from the state.

“We’re in a whole different ballgame,” she said. “Nobody really knows what the right answers are. What can we do and not do?”

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