California Privacy Laws

In recent years, online transactions, such as activities on social media networks, have exposed personal privacy to greater risks. With so much personal information available over the Internet, it is increasingly important to be aware of the applicable laws, so that your privacy is better enforced and protected. The risks can include identity theft, and data, medical, financial, or workplace breaches.

In the United States, there are overarching federal privacy laws that apply to the states. Also, each state has its own privacy laws. In general, the states can provide greater privacy protection than federal laws, but they cannot provide less protection. Privacy right violations can lead to both civil and criminal penalties, depending on the extent of the violation and the applicable laws.

What are the applicable privacy laws in California?

California’s state constitution guarantees each citizen an “inalienable right” to pursue and obtain privacy. The Office of the Attorney General has the authority and responsibility to protect this right to privacy. State privacy laws apply to a variety of fields, including, but not limited to, financial information, electronic communications, and court records.

What are California’s privacy laws relating to the protection of financial information?

There are several state statutes addressing the various privacy threats that exist in the course of financial transactions–especially those involving credit cards. For instance, simply possessing a device that has the capacity to scan or record information from a payment card’s magnetic strip is a misdemeanor crime. While businesses and individuals accept payment for goods and services by check or credit card, recording personal information from the transaction is prohibited. However, gas stations may collect a zip code during a sales transaction, but only for the purpose of preventing credit card fraud.

What are California’s privacy laws relating to computer and electronic communications?

In 2003, California’s legislature passed the Shine the Light law to protect personal identification information used for marketing purposes. According to this law, companies that share consumers’ personal information with marketing agencies are required to disclose this practice to consumers upon request. These companies must also include specific language in their privacy policies to notify consumers that their personal information is subject to distribution. For example, California’s Education Code recognizes cyberbullying (i.e. acts of harassment, threats, or intimidation committed through an electronic device) as a form of privacy invasion that can be the basis for suspension or expulsion from an educational institution. Any state government agency that collects personal information through electronic means is required to provide notice to the affected parties. Additionally, before sharing this information with any third party, the agency must obtain the consumer’s written consent.

What California laws protect invasion of public records?

As the name suggests, public records are open and accessible to the public. These records are not protected from disclosure by either California’s constitutional right to privacy or state statutes. However, there are certain exceptions. For example, the names and addresses of victims of sexual crimes are protected from disclosure. The law requires district attorneys and the courts to establish and maintain procedures to protect such confidential information.

At our law firm, we provide guidance and legal expertise to manage and protect your privacy. You may contact us to discuss the steps you can take to better protect your personal or corporate privacy rights.