California Passes Sweeping Consumer Privacy Bill

California Gov. Jerry Brown has approved a sweeping consumer privacy bill that is considered to be the toughest in the nation. California lawmakers unanimously passed the measure before sending it to the governor’s desk. State Sen. Bob Hertzberg, D-Los Angeles, a primary bill sponsor, called the new law “the most comprehensive privacy law in the country.”

Assembly Bill 375 establishes the California Consumer Privacy Act. Under the proposal, businesses that sell consumers’ information would have to disclose the categories of information they collect and let consumers view the data they have collected on them. Members of the public could ask a business to delete information they have on them and opt out of having the data sold to third parties. Kids under 16 would have to opt in to consent to the sale of their data.

The bill also lets Californians hold companies accountable for potential abuse of their data. Individual consumers would have the ability to sue companies for up to $750 in the event of an unauthorized breach of their non-encrypted personal information. The attorney general would be able to levy fines for such breaches.

The bill is the result of a deal between tech companies and privacy rights advocates. A more expansive initiative had been proposed by Alastair Mactaggart, a San Francisco real estate developer. Mactaggart praised the passage of the bill, saying, “Everybody is finally waking up to the importance of digital privacy.”

The California Consumer Privacy Act is set to go into effect starting in 2020. The measure would affect nearly every major business that handles digital data on California residents. The Internet Association had opposed the bill, as had the California Chamber of Commerce, National Retail Federation, and the Association of National Advertisers.

California, as the nation’s most populous state, is often considered a political trendsetter. Privacy rights advocates and legal groups have praised the bill as a step forward to protecting consumers. However, the ACLU said the new law “utterly fails to provide the privacy protections the public has demanded and deserves.” Lawmakers said they will work over the next eighteen months to resolve any issues with the Act as they emerge.

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