California Privacy Law Brings ‘GDPR-Lite’ to the U.S.

In what has become an ongoing race among states to have the toughest privacy regulation in the U.S., California has jumped to the front. On June 28, 2018, California’s legislature unanimously passed a privacy bill that was later signed by Governor Jerry Brown, which simultaneously strengthens privacy protections for California residents while possibly mooting an even stronger privacy bill opposed by major technology companies that was slated to be on the November ballot.

The California Consumer Privacy Act of 2018 (AB-375) mirrors some of the consumer privacy rights for EU residents that took effect in May 2018 as part of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), but with significantly lower penalties than the GDPR. Under AB-375, penalties for a violation are up to $750 per person up to a maximum of $7,500 per violation.

Consumers will have the right to transparency by asking a company for a list of the “categories and specific pieces of personal information” that the company has collected about them, the categories of sources for the data, and the categories of third parties to whom it has sold the data. Consumers will also have the right to request that their personal information be deleted by the company. The bill imposes a specific opt-in to consent to the sale of data belonging to a consumer under age 16.

The Act is effective January 1, 2020, and although it is geared towards Californians, it is likely to have far-reaching consequences across various industries and in other states. It is unlikely that companies with a regional or national presence will develop processes and systems for responding to such consumer requests without rolling out such changes across the board. And because the law applies to the data of California residents, any business who does more than just a one-time transaction with a California resident will have to take notice of this new privacy regulation and prepare accordingly.

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