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What California's New Data Privacy Act Means for You (Even If You Don't Live in California)

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By Andrew Leonatti on February 18, 2020 6:57 AM

It's only been over the last few years that Americans have started to fully understand how much personal data apps and websites collect from users. It's fair to argue that most popular free apps exist just to harvest and sell your data to advertisers.

In the wake of all these alarming revelations, the California Consumer Privacy Act took effect on January 1. The law is the first of its kind in the U.S. It may also help more than just Californians protect their data.

CCPA Background

The law technically applies to California residents (but more on that in a minute).

To fall under the law's jurisdiction, a company must do business in California and must either make more than $25 million per year, collect data on at least 50,000 people, or make 50% or more of its annual revenue from selling personal user data.

The law gives Californians the power to:

  • Ask companies to reveal what data of yours they have
  • Tell companies not to sell your data
  • Request that companies delete your data

The law also bans companies from treating customers who request these actions differently and requires that anyone under age 16 must opt into having their data sold.

The Hidden Text

While this law is broad-reaching and many advocates consider it a step in the right direction, there are significant drawbacks. These include:

  • Having to go to every company separately to exercise your rights
  • Being unable to sue companies that violate your rights (although the California attorney general can do this)
  • Not requiring companies to limit their data collection, unlike the European Union's privacy law
  • Not making companies share information that is already public or that doesn't specifically identify you

That first bullet point will be especially frustrating for many. A Washington Post report notes that you will need to be very organized to get this done. Companies may request usernames and/or passwords, make you prove your identity with a photograph, or make you send an email instead of creating a simple form for you to fill out.

What About Non-Californians?

While the CCPA applies to Californians, several large corporations have said that they will provide all Americans with the same benefits of the law. These companies are:

  • Amazon
  • Apple
  • DoorDash
  • Facebook
  • Google
  • Lutron
  • Microsoft
  • Netflix
  • PayPal
  • Ring
  • Roku
  • Starbucks
  • Strava
  • Toyota
  • Twitter
  • Uber
  • UPS
  • Wiland
  • Zillow

But remember that you will need to jump through those same hoops as Californians do to take advantage of the law's benefits. And, since you're not Californian, you will not have any options if a company ignores your request.

For that, you'll need to keep lobbying Congress to pass a federal data privacy law.

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