Landmark law, the ‘most comprehensive’ in the US, gives Californians an arsenal of tools to protect their data online
Last year, California passed a landmark privacy law that gives consumers more control over their data. The legislation gives residents unprecedented rights to control what information companies collect on them and how it is used.
The California Consumer Privacy Act will go into action 1 January 2020, giving residents of the state a whole new arsenal of tools to protect their data and personal information online – and saddling businesses with a lot more responsibility.
Here is everything you need to know about California’s “groundbreaking” new privacy law.
What is the law?
The California Consumer Privacy Act, passed in 2018, is the “most comprehensive” privacy legislation to be enacted in the United States to date, according to the American Bar Association.
Under the new regulations, California residents will be able to demand companies to disclose what information is collected on them and request a copy of that information.
Companies will be forced to delete consumers’ data upon request and they’ll be prohibited from selling information if the customer instructs them to via a mandatory “do not sell” link on the company’s website.
Consumers will also have the right to “receive equal service and price whether or not they exercise their privacy rights” or in other words, companies won’t be able to treat a user differently because they have requested their data.
When does it go into effect?
The law is effective on 1 January – meaning consumers can submit requests for their data starting on that date. The California attorney general’s office will not take any enforcement action against companies that do not comply until 1 July 2020.
What businesses does it affect?
Businesses will be required to comply with the new regulations if they have an annual gross revenue in excess of $25m, derive 50% or more of their annual revenue from selling consumers’ personal information, or annually buy, receive, sell, or share the personal information of more than 50,000 consumers, households, or devices for commercial purposes.
That means at least 500,000 businesses will be required to comply with the new law, according to the not-for-profit the International Association of Privacy.
Who else does it affect?
Consumers in California will be most directly affected by the new law. However, even people who not live in California may see ripple effects, said Peter Yared, the founder and chief executive officer of data management company InCountry.
“There are similar laws manifesting all over the world so increasingly companies are set up to receive and process these kinds of requests for data,” he said.
I live in California – how can I get my own data?
Consumers can receive a copy of their data by sending “a verifiable consumer request” to a business. The company is then required to comply with the request within 45 days of receipt. In some cases, companies can extend this time period for a maximum of 90 days total.
Consumers may only make a request for information twice a year, and only for a 12-month look-back period.
What happens if a company doesn’t give me my data?
Companies may face fines of $2,500 to $7,500 per violation of the new law, if the violation is deemed intentional. However, the CCPA also grants businesses a 30-day period to address a violation after receipt of a consumer’s request. The law is enforced by the California attorney general.
How does the CCPA compare to other privacy laws?
The California Consumer Privacy Act has often been called “GDPR-lite”, bearing resemblance to the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation, which went into effect in May 2018.
GDPR’s scope is broader, affecting all businesses that handle user data, whereas the CCPA applies only to businesses with a gross revenue over $25m, more than 50,000 customers, or whose revenue is 50% or more based on user data.
The CCPA provides more explicit “opt out” options for users who do not want their personal data sold. Under the CCPA, companies must include a “Do Not Sell My Personal Information” link in a clear and conspicuous location on their websites. Under GDPR, by comparison, businesses do not necessarily need the individual’s consent to collect and use data.
The rules also differ in their approaches to the collection of children’s data. Under GDPR, parents must provide consent for the processing of data of children under the age of 16. The CCPA requires businesses obtain consent from parents of children ages 13 and under, while kids older than 13 can provide their own consent.
Although the CCPA is the most extensive privacy law yet to be passed in the US, some advocates say it does not go far enough. Before the comment period on the law closed on 6 December, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a not-for-profit organization, and other privacy advocates filed a request to strengthen the regulation.
The law as it is written does not do enough to address data collection, said Hayley Tsukayama, an EFF legal advocate, and California has few resources to enforce the law in 2020.
“You have the right to go to companies that have your data and ask to have it back, but they don’t have to come to you to ask to have it in the first place”, she said. “This is what we call opt in versus opt out.”
Companies that violate the law will also have the “right to cure”, meaning they can change their violating policies after they have been apprehended.
“We see this as a get out of jail free card,” Tsukayama said.
1 day left to contribute in 2019…
A message from Guardian US Editor-in-chief John Mulholland
As the year comes to a close, we’re asking for your continued support. Without your help we would not have been able to pursue the Guardian’s unique, independent journalism in 2019.
And what a year it was. Across the world, a raft of rightwing autocrats took hold of power, threatening democratic institutions, denying climate science and curbing free speech. Meanwhile in the US, Donald Trump was impeached because he was “a threat to national security and the constitution”, according to the House of Representatives. The need for independent oversight and scrutiny from the press has never been greater.
And the issues for 2020 are no less urgent. The earth continues to warm at a record rate. In America, liberal democracy is under assault – from the threat of a ban on abortion to a rightwing war on voting rights that could tip the 2020 election. Lies and misinformation flood social media and politics.
Fact-based reporting is an essential part of civic discourse in these critical times – which is why we need your help. You’ve read more than 31 articles in 2019, so we hope you can appreciate the Guardian’s choice to keep our journalism open for all.
Almost 100 years ago, in 1921, the editor of the Guardian declared that “facts are sacred”. We still hold that to be true. The need for an independent press has never been greater, but the challenge is more intense than ever as digital disruption threatens traditional media’s business model. We pride ourselves on not having a paywall because we believe truth should not come at a price for anyone. Our journalism remains open and accessible to everyone and with your help we can keep it that way.
We want to say a huge thank you to everyone who has supported the Guardian so far. We’re aiming to raise $1.5m by the new year. Every contribution, big or small, will help us reach it. Make a year-end gift from as little as $1. Thank you.