An overview of the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA)

What is the CCPA?

The California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) is a state-wide data privacy law that regulates how businesses all over the world are allowed to handle the personal information (PI) of California residents.

The effective date of the CCPA was January 1, 2020. It was the first law of its kind in the United States. Starting from January 1, 2023 the California Privacy Rights Act (CPRA) comes into effect, amending and extending the CCPA. Learn more about the CPRA.

When does CCPA apply?

TheCCPA applies to any for-profit businesses, regardless of where they are located in the world, that process the personal information of more than 50,000 California residents annually, or have a gross annual revenue exceeding $25 million, or derive more than 50 percent of annual revenue from selling the personal information of California residents.

Sale of PI is defined in the CCPA 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.” (1798.140.t1).

If a company shares common branding (i.e. shared name, service mark or trademark) with another business that is liable under the CCPA, that company will also be subject to CCPA compliance.

Under the CCPA, California residents (“consumers”) are empowered with the right to opt out of having their data sold to third parties, the right to request disclosure of data already collected, and the right to request deletion of data collected.

Additionally, California residents have the right to be notified and the right to equal services and price (i.e. cannot be discriminated against based on their choice to exercise their rights).

Failure to comply with the CCPA can result in fines for businesses of $7,500 per violation and $750 per affected user in civil damages.

How to make your website CCPA-compliant?

If your business meets any of the three CCPA thresholds above and has an online domain, you are required to implement certain changes to your website.

Your website must inform its users at or before the point of data collection about the categories of personal information that it collects and for what purposes.

Your website must feature a Do Not Sell My Personal Information link that users can use to opt out of third-party data sales.

If your website has minors under the age of 16 among its users, you are required to obtain their opt-in (consent) before you are allowed to sell or disclose their personal information to third parties. If the minor is under the age of 13, a parent or legal guardian must opt in for them.

Your business must update its website’s privacy policy to include a description of consumers’ rights and how to exercise them. Your privacy policy must also contain an annually updated list of the categories of personal information that your company collects, sells and/or discloses.

If your business receives a verifiable request from a consumer asking for disclosure of their personal information that you have collected, you must provide to the consumer free of charge the records of personal information collected in the past 12 months (including sources, commercial purposes and categories of third parties with whom it has been shared). 

Your business is prohibited from discriminating based on a consumer’s choice to exercise their right to opt out, request disclosure, correction or deletion.

What is personal data?

Personal information is defined in the CCPA as “information that identifies, relates to, describes, is reasonably capable of being associated with, or could reasonably be linked, directly or indirectly, with a particular consumer or household.” (1798.140.o1)

Personal information under the CCPA includes direct identifiers (such as real name, alias, postal address, social security numbers), unique identifiers (such as cookies, IP addresses and account names), biometric data (such as face and voice recordings), geolocation data (such as location history), internet activity (such as browsing history, search history, data on interaction with a webpage or app), sensitive information (such as health data, personal characteristics, behavior, religious or political convictions, sexual preferences, employment and education data, financial and medical information).

Personal information also includes data that by inference can lead to the identification of an individual or a household.

Aggregate and anonymous data is exempt from the CCPA, unless it is in any way re-identifiable. This means data that in itself is not personal information can become so under the CCPA if it can be used — by inference or by combination with other data — to identify an individual or a household.

What does the CCPA say about cookies?

Cookies and other website tracking technologies are classified as unique identifiers that form part of the CCPA’s definition of personal information. Cookies are one of the most commonly used technologies for websites to collect personal information on end users.

First-party cookies (those set by the website itself) often collect anonymous data for core website functions. They are deleted once a user closes the browser, but third-party cookies, like those set by tech companies and social media platforms, often collect a lot of personal, sometimes sensitive, information on consumers that can be kept for up to a hundred years.

Even data collected on your website through cookies can ultimately be considered personal information under the CCPA. This information might not in itself constitute personal information (such as anonymized analytics data), but by inference or in combination with other data for the purpose of identifying and connecting devices, creating profiles and serving personalized advertisements, it can become personally identifying.

What will change for businesses and residents in California from January 1, 2023?

The new California Privacy Rights Act (CPRA) also applies to for-profit organizations that have an annual gross revenue of more than US $25 million, or derive more than 50 percent of their annual revenue from selling or sharing the personal information of California residents. However, the CPRA changes one of the three thresholds: the minimum number of California residents or households whose personal information is processed and/or shared by these businesses has increased to 100,000. Under the CPRA, B2B data is also covered, and the oversight body, the California Privacy Protection Agency (CPPA), has been established.

While the CCPA only covers selling of personal information, the CPRA includes sharing data. The regulation also expands or modifies consumers’ existing rights, and there are several new ones: the right to correction, to have inaccurate data collected about them be corrected, the right to limit use of data categorized as sensitive personal information, the right to request information about automated decision-making and likely outcomes of use of such processes, and the right to opt out of the use of automated decision-making technology with regards to their personal information. Learn more about CPRA and its scope.

If your business meets any of the CCPA/CPRA compliance thresholds, you are liable for whatever personal information you collect on California residents via your website’s cookies, if the information is sold or shared. Consumers can request disclosure of their personal information collected on your website in the past 12 months, as well as request that you correct or delete this data.

You must therefore know what data your website collects, how it’s collected, for what purpose, and with whom (third parties) it shares this data.

Our Consent Management Platform (CMP) helps you to achieve compliance with the European GDPR and ePrivacy Directive, the CCPA and CPRA, and other regulations.

The CMP technology deep-scans your website to uncover all cookies and similar trackers, then automatically controls them so you and your end users know what personal information is collected and what third parties it is shared with, if users consent to that.

We also enable CCPA and CPRA compliance for businesses by implementing the required Do Not Sell Or Share My Personal Information link with the cookie declaration generated by the scanner, as well as offering opt-in banners needed for the consent of minors under age 16.

Try Cookiebot CMP for free today


Read more about the CCPA

Read the official CCPA law text

Read more about CCPA compliance

Check out the details of the CCPA definition of personal information

Read more about the CCPA and cookies

Read more about the CCPA consumer rights

Check out our CCPA vs GDPR comparison

What is the GDPR?

Read more about GDPR in the US

Read more about CCPA vs. CPRA

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