Sep 30, 2019

The future of privacy starts in California

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

A landmark privacy law in California, which kicks in Jan. 1, will give Golden State residents the right to find out what a company knows about them and get it deleted — and to stop the company from selling it.

Why it matters: It could effectively become a national privacy law, since companies that are racing to comply with it may give these privileges to non-Californians, too.

The California Consumer Privacy Act will apply to companies with at least $25 million in revenue, personal information on at least 50,000 people, or earning at least half their money by selling consumers' personal information.

  • Next year, any Californian will be able to demand that a company disclose what data it's keeping on them — and knock it off.
  • Starting next July, Californians will be allowed to sue businesses for certain data breaches, and the California attorney general will be able to bring enforcement actions.

Detractors of the law say it is overly broad and will have unintended consequences, opening the way to identity theft, disgruntlement among consumers who find out how much information Corporate America has on them, and a bonanza for class-action litigators.

Where it stands: Companies are racing to get their computer systems ready, spending as much as $100 million, according to a PricewaterhouseCoopers estimate quoted in the Wall Street Journal and confirmed by Axios.

  • U.S. retailers in particular are struggling, because many of them haven't already had to deal with the big European privacy law that took effect last year.
  • “You have to find a way to capture all that information and track it so you know what’s happening with that information,” Dan Koslofsky, associate general counsel for privacy and data security at Gap, told the Wall Street Journal.
  • That, he said, is “a pretty significant undertaking for most companies. Unless you’ve been in a regulated space like health care or financial services, you probably haven’t done that previously.”

Computer architecture is the big sticking point. Consumer information can reside in lots of databases, and the same consumer can be listed under different names, addresses or nicknames.

  • "Large companies are struggling with this because they have vast amounts of data, and small companies are struggling with this because they don't have those resources," Peter McLaughlin, a privacy law attorney at Womble Bond Dickinson, tells Axios.

Between the lines: While efforts to pass a federal privacy law have failed, companies think it's certain that something like the California law will hold sway nationally — and that other states will follow California's lead — so they're planning accordingly.

  • Companies fully expect that people outside California will call them after Jan. 1 to demand that their data be deleted — or cease being sold — and many will comply.
  • "The general consensus is that it's an inevitability — not an 'if' but a 'when,'" Kabir Barday, CEO of OneTrust, which helps company comply with privacy laws, tells Axios.

What they're saying about the California law:

  • "It establishes some really important rights for Californians,” Hayley Tsukayama of the Electronic Frontier Foundation tells Axios. But she worries about enforcement, saying the California attorney general's office has "said they don’t have resources to handle more than a handful of cases.”
  • TechNet, which represents the tech industry, tells Axios: "As it stands, meaningful clarifications still need to be made to ensure consumers continue to have the online experience they have come to expect."
  • Facebook, which continues to be on the hot seat over privacy matters, tells Axios: "We believe people should be in control of their information and companies should be held to high standards in explaining what data they have and how they use it, especially when they sell data."

What's next: The Californian whose efforts led to the privacy law, real estate developer Alastair Mactaggart, is gunning for a 2020 state ballot initiative with more privacy protections. Consumers would have to opt in before companies could sell their data, the Washington Post reports.

The bottom line: "Consumers want to have more control over their data," Jay Cline, who leads the privacy practice at PwC, tells Axios. "They want to have the foundational rights to access, correct and delete their data."

Go deeper:

More than 50 CEOs urge Congress to pass consumer privacy law

Axios' deep dive on data privacy

California governor signs data privacy law

Go deeper

The wreckage of summer

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

We usually think of Memorial Day as the start of the summer, with all of the fun and relaxation that goes with it — but this one is just going to remind us of all of the plans that have been ruined by the coronavirus.

Why it matters: If you thought it was stressful to be locked down during the spring, just wait until everyone realizes that all the traditional summer activities we've been looking forward to are largely off-limits this year.

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 8 a.m. ET: 5,428,605 — Total deaths: 345,375 — Total recoveries — 2,179,408Map.
  2. U.S.: Total confirmed cases as of 8 a.m. ET: 1,643,499 — Total deaths: 97,722 — Total recoveries: 366,736 — Total tested: 14,163,915Map.
  3. World: White House announces travel restrictions on Brazil Over 100 cases in Germany tied to single day of church services.
  4. Public health: Officials are urging Americans to wear masks over Memorial Day.
  5. Economy: White House economic adviser Kevin Hassett says it's possible the unemployment rate could still be in double digits by November's election.
  6. Federal government: Trump attacks a Columbia University study that suggests earlier lockdown could have saved 36,000 American lives.
  7. What should I do? Hydroxychloroquine questions answeredTraveling, asthma, dishes, disinfectants and being contagiousMasks, lending books and self-isolatingExercise, laundry, what counts as soap — Pets, moving and personal healthAnswers about the virus from Axios expertsWhat to know about social distancingHow to minimize your risk.
  8. Other resources: CDC on how to avoid the virus, what to do if you get it, the right mask to wear.

Subscribe to Mike Allen's Axios AM to follow our coronavirus coverage each morning from your inbox.

Updated 5 hours ago - Politics & Policy

U.S. coronavirus updates

Data: The Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins; Map: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios. This graphic includes "probable deaths" that New York City began reporting on April 14.

The CDC is warning of potentially "aggressive rodent behavior" amid a rise in reports of rat activity in several areas, as the animals search further for food while Americans stay home more during the coronavirus pandemic.

By the numbers: More than 97,700 people have died from COVID-19 and over 1.6 million have tested positive in the U.S. Over 366,700 Americans have recovered and more than 14.1 million tests have been conducted.