California Consumer Privacy Act Officially Becomes Law

The California Consumer Privacy Act was signed into law by Governor Jerry Brown. Under the law, consumers can stop companies from selling personal data to third parties and imposes possible penalties on companies that fail to comply.

The privacy law, a first in the nation, requires companies to delete personal information if a consumer asks them to do so. If requested, companies must provide the categories of information collected. Anyone 16 and under must consent before personal data can be sold.

As explained by the Sacramento Bee, California's attorney general has the power to levy fines on any company found misusing private data. Consumers can also sue a company in violation of the law for damages up to $750.

"The California Consumer Privacy Act will allow consumers to make informed choices about what happens with their own data — control that fosters a healthy relationship to technology and overall digital well-being," said Elizabeth Galicia, vice president of Common Sense Kids Action.

The law only applies to Californians, but large companies are likely to modify privacy policies to include all customers instead of trying to fit a certain segment of the population with a different protection level. With recent pushes within the federal government for increased data protection, it is likely Congress will consider new legislation to cover all Americans at some point anyway.

A previous privacy protection measure was scheduled to be put before voters in November 2018. Real estate developer Alastair Mactaggart has been advocating for tougher privacy laws within the state. He managed to get a very strict data protection regulation qualified for the ballot. However, with the California Consumer Privacy Act now approved by lawmakers, the proposal has been removed.

"I feel like it's the first step, and the country's going to follow," said Mactaggart. "Everybody is finally waking up to the importance of digital privacy."

Most people are "waking up" because of the Cambridge Analytica scandal that affected social media giant Facebook. After news broke that the consulting firm gained access to the personal data of 87 million Facebook users, many people began to distrust large companies with the protection of personal information.

The California Consumer Privacy Act goes into effect in 2020. Until then, it is expected major tech firms and business advocacy groups will fight for amendments and changes that would loosen the restrictions and their obligations under the law. As it stands, the law appears to be the toughest privacy protection initiative enacted anywhere in the country.