California Rolls Out Strongest Data Privacy Law in US

NBCUniversal, Inc.

On January 1st, California rolled out the strongest data privacy law in the United States: the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA).

Never heard of it? You're in good company.

An NBC 7 news crew approached 15 shoppers at random outside a Walmart in Murphy Canyon  - not one could confidently describe CPPA – in fact, most had never heard of it.

So what is it?

“The biggest impact for consumers is you have more rights than you’ve ever had before when it comes to how your data is collected and used,” said James Lee, the chief operating officer for Identity Theft Resource Center, a nonprofit consumer privacy advocate.

For the first time - you can now ask any large company with an online presence to show you everything they've collected on you and what they've done with it. You can also ask them to stop selling it or wipe it clean.

"So then you can make an informed decision,” says Lee. “Because today, basically you're flying blind. You may know there's information being collected about you, but you have no real idea of how it’s being used."

Companies must now also get permission from parents to collect data from children. And there are new rules dictating what companies must do if they suffer a data breach, including more opportunities to take companies to court if you fall victim to one.

"But the real question that everybody is still wanting to know is how many people are going to punch out?" asks Lee.

Good question. Most folks we talked to didn't like how much companies knew about them.

“It’s very worrying to think that people have my information just because I go onto Google to find out something,” said shopper Vanessa Jones – who makes a point to visit the bank and postal office in person, but still feels bombarded by targeted online ads. “I'm thinking how do they know?! How do they know?! It’s my information!”

Once we explained their new rights, most seemed more than eager to keep their personal data, well, personal.

“It would be nice to think that I had the right to stop people from poking their nose into my business,” Jones said.

“I think it’s important to know what they’re collecting and why,” Angelle Romero said.

“The fact that we have the power to stop that - that’s great,” Benjamin Wicked said.

California’s Attorney General said his office will begin enforcing the new changes in July. Until then, companies are already interpreting the law very differently.

For example, in a recent blog post, Facebook states it believes it is already complying with CCPA and thus, will not be changing any of its business practices.

Meanwhile, the job search website Indeed is instructing users who want to take advantage of CCPA to just delete their accounts.

It’ll be interesting to see if either approach passes the snuff test once the attorney general starts enforcing the law come July 2020.

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