California’s ‘Right To Know Act’ Brings Consumers More Privacy Protection

05/06/2013 // Keller Grover LLP // Carey Been // (press release)

A new bill being considered by California lawmakers will bring California consumers additional privacy rights by requiring companies to disclose to consumers the data they’ve collected and with whom it was shared during the past year, if the consumer requests it, says San Francisco consumer protection attorney Carey Been.

The bill, known as the “Right to Know Act of 2013,” AB 1291 would require companies to provide a free report in response to a customer’s request and respond within 30 days. The law defines “customer” as an individual who is a resident of California who provides personal information to a business, in the course of purchasing, viewing, accessing, renting, leasing, or otherwise using real or personal property, or obtaining a product or service from the business including advertising or any other content. AB 1291 was introduced in February by state Assembly member Bonnie Lowenthal, and was amended this week in the California Assembly. If this bill passes, any business that stores customer data will be mandated to provide a copy of that information, along with any entity it has been shared with for the past year, when requested. The legislation will apply to both brick and mortar and online companies.

“Today, our personal data is everywhere — we share it when using mobile phone apps, search engines and websites like Facebook and Twitter. Companies buy and sell it for profit,” Lowenthal said in a press release. “As technology advances, so should our consumer protections.”

California consumers should also know that this new bill doesn’t provide additional safeguards surrounding data storage. But it could affect how companies handle identifiable data collected in the course of conducting business; meaning that they could destroy the tracks in the data so it’s not linked to a specific consumer or only keep information required for transactions.

“Under current California law, customers can contact companies and ask for an accounting of disclosures for direct marketing purposes—basically, a list of what companies got your personal data for them to send you junk mail, spam, or call you on the phone—and general facts about what types of data were disclosed,” San Francisco-based privacy group Electronic Frontier Foundation Activism Director Rainey Reitman wrote Tuesday regarding the proposed legislation. “The new proposal brings California’s outdated transparency law into the digital age, making it possible for California consumers to request an accounting of all the ways their personal information is being trafficked—including with online advertisers, data brokers and third-party apps.”

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