Southern California Record

Tuesday, November 19, 2019

State's business community calls for clarity on new consumer privacy law - what is data?

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By Hollie Ferguson | Aug 21, 2019


SACRAMENTO – California companies are challenging the California Consumer Privacy Act to clarify the reach and scope of the law before 2020. The CCPA will require companies to inform consumers about any data collected, allow consumers to request their data be deleted or request their data isn’t sold.

California Retailers Association President Rachel Michelin said the business community could simply use more information and clarification on the reach of the law and the rules applied under it.

With the initiative passing through the legislature in just under a week, Michelin said there wasn’t much time to work out kinks in the policy and generate dialogue about how businesses can comply with the act and how it can protect consumers.

“Because it is such a huge policy shift when it comes to consumer data and privacy… now we’re trying to figure out how businesses can comply, to really frankly make sure the consumers are protected,” Michelin said.

Due to the speed with which the CCPA moved through legislation, Michelin said there are aspects of it that require clarification for businesses to provide consumers with the proper tools to fully use the initiative to their advantage.

“What is data?” Michelin said. “It’s so complicated, most people even in the business community don’t understand exactly what that is. Let’s clarify that so the consumer knows what that means so they know how they can protect the data at whatever level they want protected.”

A more-defined definition of consumer data under the CCPA could help businesses better comply with the law, understand the law and protect both consumers and small and large businesses, she said.

“I think that’s where the legislature let the business community down – and frankly let consumers down – by not providing that clarification," Michelin said. "I think it's going to become very difficult for small business (and) large business but ultimately out to the consumers.”

Increased litigation risk for businesses is also an aspect that should be discussed in the CCPA conversation, Michelin said. Though it is unclear if and how increased litigation would play out, Michelin said that the gray area and blurred lines within the CCPA could lead to differing interpretations. 

There are bills moving through that could provide better clarification of CCPA, such as Assembly Bill 25, which has been a product of negotiation between the business community and privacy rights activists. 

The strength of the law will not only affect businesses in California but as one of the first of its kind, it's important the CCPA is clear and easy to comply with to provide the stepping stones for other states to create their own privacy acts to protect consumers.

“This is also going to set that line in the sand across the country as other states are watching what California does and then utilizing whatever we do with our CCPA," Michelin said. 

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