The California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) is now in force, and those that fail to comply are open to civil penalties and private lawsuits.
But, many business, security, and compliance leaders are still scratching their heads, wondering how the CCPA will affect them, how to stay compliant, and what consequences they face in the event of a data breach.
We’re here to help. We’ve answered some of the key questions businesses are asking about, from the scope of the CCPA to violations under this strict data privacy law.
Not what you were looking for? We’ve covered the 5 Things Every CISO Should Know About CCPA’s Impact on Their InfoSec Program in a seperate blog.
The CCPA covers several types of entities, primarily “businesses.” If your company qualifies as a business, it needs to comply with the CCPA.
A business can be any legal entity that operates for profit in California and meets one or more of the CCPA’s three thresholds:
At first glance, the thresholds above may appear to only apply to large corporations, social media companies, and “data brokers.”
But the truth is, many companies with targeted advertising campaigns may meet the requirements of threshold “B.” This is because using third-party cookies is likely to constitute “selling personal information. (More information below. Click here to jump ahead.)
Therefore, a company is likely to be covered by the CCPA if its website or mobile app:
It doesn’t matter if your business is based in Los Angeles, London, or Lahore. The determining factors are whether you collect the personal information of California residents (“consumers”), and whether you meet one or more of the three thresholds above.
Does your business collect the personal information of California residents? It does if they:
That means that if you have a website that attracts visitors from around the world, chances are you’re obligated to satisfy the CCPA.
The CCPA defines “personal information” as:
“…information that identifies, relates to, describes, is capable of being associated with, or could reasonably be linked, directly or indirectly, with a particular consumer or household.”
It’s worth mentioning that this is arguably the broadest definition of “personal information” under any privacy law in the world. Nonetheless, the CCPA provides examples of the types of data that might qualify as personal information.
While this list is not exhaustive, it includes:
It’s very common for a business to collect these types of information every time a person visits its website or uses its app. And, it’s also impossible to do business with a consumer without collecting at least some of this information.
Think about it. When you buy something on an e-commerce website, what information do you provide?
A service provider is a legal entity that processes personal information on behalf of a business.
For example, a marketing company receives a list of email addresses from a business and sends out its newsletter. The marketing company doesn’t have a direct interest in the end result of this activity — it simply obeys the instructions of the business.
A service provider must also operate under a contract with the business from whom it receives personal information. This contract must prohibit the service provider from retaining, using, or disclosing the personal information for any purpose outside of the contract.
In layman’s terms: Service providers are not directly liable for most CCPA obligations. But, if a service provider’s negligence or wrongdoing leads to a data breach, it can be sued by the client. Service providers can also receive civil penalties (more on that here) in certain circumstances.
Unfortunately, it’s not clear yet what these “certain circumstances” are. As and when we have more context, we’ll update this blog!
Under the CCPA’s private right of action, a consumer — or group of consumers — can bring a legal claim against a business that fails to secure certain types of their personal information and suffers a data breach. (You can read more about what types of PI in this blog.)
But, what happens if a consumer does pursue this private right of action? It can lead to:
In the event of large-scale data breaches involving millions of consumers, damages could add up to billions of dollars. We’ve yet to see any legal claims completed under the CCPA. However, what if the CCPA had been in force throughout Facebook’s “Cambridge Analytica” scandal? Privacy lawyer Nicholas Schmidt estimates that the damage could have been between $61.6 billion and $184.7 billion.
The California Attorney General can issue civil penalties to businesses or service providers that violate any part of the CCPA.
The CCPA’s civil penalties can be for an amount of:
Note: This is why it’s so important organization’s have strong security policies, procedures, and solutions in place. Reducing risk by improving your security posture is key. Tessian helps prevent data exfiltration and accidental data loss. Our solutions also help security leaders proactively protect their systems and data through automated intelligence and robust investigation and remediation tools. Learn more.
The California Attorney-General must give a business 30 days’ notice of its alleged CCPA violation. If the business can “cure” the violation within this period, it can escape a penalty.
While it’s not clear how a business can “cure” a CCPA violation, examples may include imposing security measures to “stem” a data breach or successfully retrieving personal information that has been exfiltrated.
Privacy regulators are increasingly imposing harsh penalties on big tech companies. The CCPA takes clear inspiration from the EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which has seen the following large fines:
The CCPA defines a data breach as:
“…unauthorized access and exfiltration, theft, or disclosure as a result of the business’ violation of the duty to implement and maintain reasonable security procedures and practices appropriate to the nature of the information to protect the personal information”
Here are the key elements of this definition:
Remember that a data breach can be intentional or unintentional and it can originate from a person inside or outside of your business. Read more about Insider Threats on our blog.
According to the most recent California Data Breach Report, misdirected emails (emails sent to the wrong recipient) were the leading cause of data breaches.
In the UK, misdirected emails were also the most common cause of data breach in quarter 4 of 2019-20, according to the UK Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO). As we’ve said, the CCPA requires a proactive approach to maintaining data security. Read about how Tessian can help CCPA compliance below or learn more about Tessian Guardian, which detects and prevents misdirected emails before they happen.
The CCPA doesn’t define “reasonable security procedures and practices.”
However, in the most recent California Data Breach Report, the California Attorney-General clearly states that meeting the 20 Critical Security Controls from the Center for Internet Security (CIS) represents a minimum reasonable level of security.
The CIS Critical Security Controls include:
The CCPA’s consumer rights are:
In upholding these consumer rights, businesses have an obligation to provide individuals certain types of notice. More on that below.
Under the CCPA, businesses must provide up to four types of notice to consumers:
The CCPA defines “selling” personal information as:
“…selling, renting, releasing, disclosing, disseminating, making available, transferring, or otherwise communicating orally, in writing, or by electronic or other means, a consumer’s personal information by the business to another business or a third party for monetary or other valuable consideration.”
There is a lot of debate about what this means for businesses. Virtually any transfer of personal information that benefits your company could constitute a “sale.” And, because of the very broad phrasing, this definition is likely to include the use of third-party cookies, which involve “transferring” “personal information” (such as IP addresses and device IDs) to “a third party” for “valuable consideration.”
Don’t worry, there are several approaches to transferring Personal Information without “selling” it, including engaging a service provider when disclosing personal information for business purposes.
While some parts of the CCPA are still open to debate, we know the following facts for certain:
Tessian’s Human Layer Security solutions can fulfill a crucial element of your company’s duty to maintain reasonable security procedures and practices.
Learn more about Tessian’s solutions by booking a demo.