On January 1, 2020, the California Consumer Privacy Act of 2018 (CCPA) went into effect. The CCPA applies to a wide range of companies and broadly governs the collection, use and sale of personal information of California residents (i.e., consumers and certain other individuals) and households.

The CCPA provides that consumers may seek statutory damages of between $100 and $750, or actual damages if greater, against a company in the event of a data breach of nonredacted and nonencrypted personal information that results from the company’s failure to implement reasonable security. The amount of the statutory damages depends on factors such as the nature and seriousness of the company’s misconduct, the number of violations, the persistence of the company’s misconduct, the length of time over which the misconduct occurred, and the company’s assets, liabilities and net worth. To defend against these consumer actions, a company must show that it has implemented and maintains reasonable security procedures and practices appropriate to the nature of the personal information it is processing.

This CCPA private right of action promises to shake up the data breach class action landscape in which such actions have generally been settled for small amounts or dismissed due to lack of injury. With the CCPA, companies now face potentially staggering damages in relation to a breach. To provide some context, a data breach affecting the personal information of 1,000 California consumers may result in statutory damages ranging from $100,000 to $750,000, and a data breach affecting the personal information of one million California consumers may result in statutory damages ranging from $100 million to $750 million. These potential statutory damages dwarf almost every previous large data breach settlement in the United States.

To mitigate the risk of this increased exposure, companies need to take key steps to ensure they have implemented reasonable security procedures and practices.

What Is Reasonable Security?


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Minimal Changes Expected to the Final Regulations

On October 10, 2019, the Attorney General issued his Proposed Text of Regulations, along with a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking Action and Initial Statement of ReasonsAccording to the Attorney General, the regulations will “benefit the welfare of California residents because they will facilitate the implementation of many components of the CCPA” and “provid[e] clear direction to businesses on how to inform consumers of their rights and how to handle their requests.” See Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, page 10.

The deadline to submit public comments on the proposed regulations was December 6, 2019. The Office of the Attorney General (OAG) reported receiving about 1,700 pages of written comments from almost 200 parties. Despite this, the Attorney General stated in a news briefing that he does not expect the final regulations to include significant changes.

The proposed regulations should give everyone a sense of how the Attorney General will interpret the CCPA. The Attorney General is required to issue final regulations and a final Statement of Reasons at some point before July 1, 2020, which is the first day that the Attorney General can enforce the law.

Investing in Enforcement

California has invested in enforcement resources. The Attorney General stated that the CCPA will cost the state about $4.7 million for FY 2019-2020, and $4.5 million for FYI 2020-2021, which reflects the cost of hiring an additional 23 full-time positions and expert consultants to enforce and defend the CCPA. See Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, page 10. Despite this additional funding, the OAG is still an agency with limited resources. Many expect that the OAG will only be able to pursue a limited number of CCPA enforcement actions, particularly if it takes large on and well-funded companies.


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