California will soon have what could be America's most far-reaching law to give consumers more control over their personal data. On June 28, the California state senate and assembly unanimously passed the California Consumer Privacy Act of 2018, which some see as the state’s version of GDPR.
The bill, which was immediately signed by California governor Jerry Brown, gives consumers more control over how their personal data is collected, used, and sold by corporations. It also mandates business penalties of up to $7,500 per violation, starting on January 1, 2020.
In a legislative bill summary, comments that the law will give California consumers "the right to access their personal information that is collected by a business, the right to delete it, the right to know what personal information is collected, the right to know whether and what personal information is being sold or disclosed, the right to stop a business from selling their information, and the right to equal service and price."
As Ars Technica points out, the bill defines personal information as anything “capable of being associated with, or could reasonably be linked, directly or indirectly, with a particular consumer or household.” A specific list of personal information that would be impacted includes Internet browsing and search history, biometric data, geolocation data, job and education information, and various types of identifiers such as names, aliases, postal addresses, Internet Protocol addresses, email addresses, account names, Social Security number, driver's license numbers, and passport numbers.
Will this bill bring America closer to a to legislation similar to GDPR? In short, this new legislation has many similarities to GDPR, but sets different compliance thresholds. As Kevin Bocek, chief technology strategist at Venafi, notes, “In some ways the California Consumer Privacy Act of 2018 is built on the European GDPR, but there are several important differences that dilute the impact. For example, the fines and penalties for GDPR are much higher than this act and businesses don’t need to comply with it until they reach $25 million in revenue. There are no similar limits on revenue size in GDPR, it affects all businesses.”
Even though it doesn’t go as far as GDPR, the bill was opposed by most large technology companies, who cast doubts about potential “unintended consequences.” As reported by Reuters, Google senior vice president Sridhar Ramaswamy states, “We think there’s a set of ramifications that’s really difficult to understand.” Ramaswamy continues, “User privacy needs to be thoughtfully balanced against legitimate business needs.”
Many large technology companies base their offerings on data that is collected from consumers. So, the California Consumer Privacy Act could prove burdensome to certain business models. “It’s not surprising the large tech companies like Google and Facebook opposed the bill,” mentions Kevin Bocek. “Controlling the privacy and personal information that flows between machines is incredibly difficult, and a major challenge for all businesses.”
How likely are U.S. consumer privacy regulations to impact your business?