On June 28, 2018 California (“CA”) Governor Jerry Brown signed the California Consumer Privacy Act of 2018 (“Act”) into law. The Act zeroes in on the personal information (“PI”) of CA residents, at once: (i) formalizing consumers’ rights regarding their own PI, and (ii) mandating what certain businesses may and may not do (sans permission) if they collect, disclose, or sell such info. Like the recently effective GDPR—and the Internet itself—the Act reaches far beyond its ostensible borders. Its implications should therefore be tracked by any covered entity dealing in PI, as the Act defines it.
This post summarizes certain key aspects of the Act: namely, its rights, requirements, and the entities beholden to both.
The Act will be effective January 1, 2020. §1798.198(a). Until then, the CA legislature will likely rethink, refine, and amend it. §1798.185(a). While getting a head-start on Act-literacy is wise, keeping an eye on its evolution is key.
The Act’s requirements fall primarily upon “businesses,” which are defined as:
For-profit legal entities that,
- collect consumers’ PI (or have PI collected on the business' behalf);
- alone or jointly determine the purposes and means of PI processing;
- do business in CA; and
o have annual gross revenues over $25M;
o alone or in combination, annually buy, sell, or share for commercial purposes the PI of 50K or more consumers, households, or devices; or
o derive 50% or more of their annual revenues from selling PI. §1798.140(c)(1).
The Act's covered businesses also include entities that (i) control or are controlled by, and (ii) share common branding (i.e. name, trademark) with, the above businesses. §1798.140(c)(2).
The key phrase here is “personal information.” The Act defines PI as “information that identifies, relates to, describes, is capable of being associated with, or could reasonably be linked, directly or indirectly, with a particular consumer or household.” §1798.140(o)(1).
The Act provides a non-exhaustive list of PI examples, including: names, SSNs, biometrics, personal property records, records of products considered or purchased, browsing history, geo data, visual, thermal or olfactory data (Note: if you know what "olfactory data" entails, let us know!), education info, and any inferences drawn from these and the other listed data points. Id. Exception: publicly available info, as defined by the Act, is not PI. §1798.140(o)(2).
Consumers and Rights
The Act grants “consumers”—defined as natural persons who are CA residents, §1798.140(g)—distinct rights pertaining to the handling of their PI, including the following.
(1) The right to know what PI each business collects.
Thanks to this right, when requested by a consumer, a business must disclose to that consumer promptly (i.e. generally within 45 days of receipt of request) and free of charge: (i) the categories of PI collected, (ii) specific pieces of PI collected; (iii) categories of sources from which a business collected such consumer's PI; and (ii) categories of third parties with which businesses share that PI. §1798.100, §1798.110.
Also, at or before the point of collection, a business must inform consumers of: (i) the categories of PI collected, and (ii) how the PI will be used. Additional collection or use is prohibited sans this notification. §1798.110.
Exceptions: Businesses are not required to disclose to consumers any unsold or un-retained PI collected for one-time transactions. Also, re-identifying or otherwise linking data that the business does not (in the ordinary course of business) maintain as PI, for the sake of disclosing that PI, is not required. §1798.100, §1798.110.
(2) The right to request the deletion of their PI.
When requested by a consumer, a business must delete that consumer's PI and direct its service providers (defined at §1798.140(v)) to do the same. §1798.105(c). Exceptions include where the PI is necessary to: (i) perform a contract with the consumer, (ii) detect security incidents, (iii) debug, (iv) exercise a lawful right, (v) comply with certain Penal Code or other legal requirements, (vi) conduct public interest research, or (vii) otherwise use the PI “internally, in a lawful manner that is compatible with the context in which the consumer provided the information.” §1798.105(d).
(3) The right to know whether their PI is sold or disclosed, and to whom.
Upon request by a consumer, businesses who sell PI or otherwise disclose it for a business purpose must disclose to that consumer, essentially, the categories of (i) PI they collected, disclosed for a business purpose, and sold; and (ii) each third party to whom they sold the PI. §1798.115. If a business hasn’t sold the requesting consumer’s PI, such business must disclose that fact. Id.
(4) The right to prohibit—i.e. “opt out” of—the sale of their PI.
A consumer may at any time direct a business that it may not sell that consumer’s PI. §1798.120. Businesses that sell consumer PI must notify consumers that their PI may be sold, and of this opt-out right. Id. Without this notification, a business is prohibited from selling the affected PI. Id. Also, should a business receive a consumer’s opt-out, such business is prohibited from selling that consumer's PI. Id. That is, unless the consumer subsequently opts back in via an express authorization. Id. Stricter rules (e.g. a requirement that consumers “opt in” to allow their PI’s sale in the first place) apply for certain teenagers’ PI. §1798.120(d).
Moreover, a business may not require that a consumer creates an account in order to direct the business not to sell the consumer’s PI. Id.
Bonus prohibition: third parties may not sell PI that they bought from a business unless the relevant consumer: (i) has received explicit notice that its PI may be sold; and (ii) has a chance to opt out. §1798.115(d).
(5) The right to equal service and price, even if they exercise their privacy rights under the Act.
A business may not discriminate against consumers because they have exercised any of the above rights, including by denying services to such consumers or charging them different rates. §1798.125. (While the Act provides an exception to this rule, allowing businesses to offer different rates or quality of goods or services to customers “if that price or difference is directly related to the value provided to the consumer by the consumer’s data,” id, the opacity of this exception requires further assessment.)
Finally, businesses may offer financial incentives to consumers in exchange for the collection, sale, or deletion of their PI—as long as: (i) the businesses notify consumers of these incentives; (ii) the relevant consumers opt into this arrangement, which consent is revocable anytime; and (iii) the incentive practices are not unjust, unreasonable, coercive, or usurious. Id.
Penalties and Procedures
If a business fails to implement and maintain reasonable security practices appropriate to the nature of the PI, and this failure results in a consumer’s nonencrypted or nonredacted PI being accessed and exfiltrated, stolen, or disclosed in an unauthorized manner, such consumer/s (individually or as a class) may commence a civil action for: (i) the greater of (a) up to $750 in damages per consumer and incident, and (b) actual damages; (ii) injunctive or declaratory relief; and (iii) any other relief per the court’s discretion. §1798.150. The Act further provides the factors for the court’s consideration in assessing statutory damages. Id.
Consumers have a cause of action for general Act violations—and the statutory damages that may follow—as well, subject to the Act's dispute resolution procedures. Id. A consumer must notify the business 30 days before initiating their action, identifying the allegedly violated provisions of the Act. Id. If the business cures within this period, providing an “express written statement” to this effect (which statement is enforceable), no action may be brought concerning that cured matter. Id. Exception: no notice is required by an action for actual pecuniary damages. Id.
If 30 days pass without cure, a business is in violation of the Act. §1798.155.
A consumer must also notify the Attorney General (“AG”) within 30 days of filing an action for statutory damages under the Act. §1798.150. Within 30 days following receipt of this notice, the AG must either: (i) notify the consumer of the AG’s intent to prosecute, in which case the consumer may not proceed with their action (however, if the AG doesn’t prosecute within 6 months, the consumer may proceed with their action); or (ii) notify the consumer that they may not proceed with their action. Id. If the AG does nothing within these 30 days, the consumer may proceed. Id.
Any person, business, or service provider who intentionally violates the Act may be liable for a civil penalty of up to seven thousand $7,500 for each violation. §1798.155(b).
Miscellaneous Requirements and Exclusions
- Businesses must provide at least two methods by which consumers may make the requests for info about their PI detailed above, e.g. a phone number and web address. §1798.130.
- The 45-day deadline for a response to a consumer request for info about their PI may be extended once by a business for another 45 days when reasonably necessary, provided the relevant consumer is notified of this extension within the initial 45 days. Id. A 90-day extension is also available based on the complexity and numerosity of requests a business receives, as are exceptions to, and even payment terms concerning, this obligation. §1798.145(g).
- Businesses' PI disclosures must cover the 12-month period preceding the receipt of consumer’s request. §1798.130.
- Businesses must include and update in their privacy policies every 12 months, as necessary: (i) their consumers’ rights; (ii) methods of submitting requests; (iii) the categories of PI they have collected, sold, and disclosed for business purposes in the prior 12 months. Id.
- Businesses must ensure their relevant personnel are adequately informed of the Act’s requirements, and know how to help consumers exercise the rights it provides. Id.
- Businesses are not obligated to provide a consumer with info on the sales or disclosures of that consumer’s PI more than twice in 12 months. Id.
- Businesses must “respect” a consumer’s opt-out for at least 12 months before requesting that the consumer revisit their decision and authorize the business’ sale of the consumer’s PI. §1798.135.
- A consumer may opt-out via a proxy. Id.
- The Act does not apply to:
o Consumer information that is “deidentified or in the aggregate consumer information.” §1798.145. ("Deidentified" is defined at §1798.140(h) and "aggregate consumer information" is defined at §1798.140(a).)
o The collection or sale of PI “if every aspect of that commercial conduct takes place wholly outside of California.” §1798.145(a). Meaning, (i) if the business collected PI while the consumer was out of CA, (ii) no part of the PI sale occurred in CA; and (iii) no PI collected while the consumer was in CA is sold. Id. The Act cautions that this exception does not permit a business to store PI (e.g. on a device) while the relevant consumer is in CA, only to collect that PI once the consumer (and their stored PI) leaves CA. Id.
- A business is not liable for violations of the Act by its service providers, if the business didn’t know (or have reason to believe), when it disclosed PI to that service provider, that it intended to commit such a violation. §1798.145(h). A service provider is similarly not liable for the businesses it deals with. Id.
- A business is not considered by the Act to have sold PI when the relevant consumer directs the business to make such disclosure or “uses the business to intentionally interact with a third party.” §1798.140(t)(2)(A).
- Contract provisions that purport to waive or limit consumer rights under the Act are contrary to public policy, void, and unenforceable. §1798.192.
The Act’s implicit intent is “to further the constitutional right of privacy and to supplement existing laws relating to consumers’ personal information.” §1798.175. To this end, where other sweeping PI statutes such as GDPR conflict with the Act, “the provisions of the law that afford the greatest protection for the right of privacy for consumers shall control.” Id.
Though lengthy, this synopsis of the Act is not exhaustive. While the Act provides additional—and potentially pivotal—requirements and exceptions for businesses, their service providers, and third parties in relation to consumer PI, this post may serve as a guide to certain highlights of this new law and a primer for the internal discussions the Act should stimulate within entities of all (covered) stripes.