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California Privacy Law Tweaks Await Governor’s Signature

Sept. 14, 2019, 12:19 AM

Five bills to ease tech and business complaints about California’s first-in-the-nation privacy law await action from Gov. Gavin Newsom.

If the governor signs them, the bills would make minor changes to the California Consumer Privacy Act before it takes effect Jan. 1, 2020. Signing the bills also would clear the way for Attorney General Xavier Becerra (D) to issue regulations that businesses must follow by July 1, 2020.

Lawmakers sent the bills to Newsom (D) with final votes Sept. 12 and 13 before adjourning for the year. The governor hasn’t taken a position on the bills and must sign or veto them by Oct. 13.

In the final days of their 2019 session, lawmakers stuck to their pledge to accept minor changes that make it easier for businesses to comply. They resisted pushes from Google and some business groups to weaken the law, for example by allowing them to collect user data for targeted advertising.

Right to Know, Delete, Opt Out

The sweeping law will give consumers the right to ask a company what data it holds on them and to have that data deleted, as well as to opt out of the sale of their personal information. The law limits how Alphabet Inc.'s Google and other companies collect and make money from user data online, threatening a business model that generates billions of dollars in ad revenue.

The bills exempt public information and employee information held by employers from the law, specify communication methods companies must offer to consumers to make requests about their data, and allow carmakers to keep customer data if is necessary for repairs or warranty work.

Business groups backed recent amendments tweaking the definition of “personal information,” exempting information employees share between businesses providing services to each other. Another change would clarify that companies aren’t required to collect consumer data or retain it longer than they would in the normal course of business.

Loyalty Programs

One bill that didn’t make it to the governor is A.B. 846, a bill that was meant to ease compliance for retailers and other businesses with loyalty programs that offer discounts, coupons, and other perks.

Facing opposition from the California Retailers Association, California Chamber of Commerce, and other businesses, Assemblywoman Autumn Burke (D) pulled the bill from vote eligibility Sept. 12. She can renew the bill when the legislature reconvenes in January.

The anticipated regulations from the attorney general might resolve retailers’ concerns, California Retailers Association President Rachel Michelin said. If not, the group will work on legislation in 2020.

Consumer and privacy advocates have argued the law allows businesses to share consumer information to carry out loyalty programs, but retailers, travel companies, and others said they needed the law to be more explicit.

Bills on Newsom’s desk to amend the privacy law are:

  • A.B. 25 by Assemblyman Ed Chau (D) to exempt personal information employers have about their employees from the law’s requirement that it be disclosed or deleted upon request;
  • A.B. 874 by Assemblywoman Jacqui Irwin (D) to clarify how public information is exempt from the law;
  • A.B. 1146 by Assemblyman Marc Berman to limit opt-out and deletion rights for data held by car dealers necessary for repair and warranty work;
  • A.B. 1355 by Chau to make multiple technical changes; and
  • A.B. 1564 by Berman to specify that businesses must provide an email address, but not a toll-free number, for consumers to request information.


The laws would take effect Jan. 1, 2020, if enacted.

To contact the reporter on this story: Laura Mahoney in Sacramento, Calif. at lmahoney@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Katherine Rizzo at krizzo@bgov.com; Cheryl Saenz at csaenz@bloombergtax.com