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California Amends its Data Breach Notification Law

06 September 2011

A new amendment to California’s security breach notification statute establishes specific content requirements for data breach notifications and imposes a new Attorney General notification requirement for breaches affecting more than 500 California residents. Senate Bill 24 (“SB 24”) was signed on August 31, 2011 by California governor Jerry Brown and will take effect January 1, 2012.  Since 2003, following California's enactment of the first of its kind data breach notification laws (Cal. Civ. Code §§ 1798.29 & 1798.82) California law has required any person, business or state agency that owns or licenses computerized data that includes certain personal information to notify individuals when there has been a breach of personal information, but did not specify the type of information that should be contained in the notification.  California now joins the ranks of several other states whose data breach notification laws contain breach notification content mandates. 

SB 24 requires all breach notifications to include the name and contact information of the notifying person or entity and a list of the types of personal information compromised, or reasonably believed to have been compromised. The notifying person or entity must also provide the toll-free telephone numbers and addresses of the three major credit reporting agencies – TransUnion, Equifax and Experian – if the breach exposed a Social Security number, driver’s license, or California card identification number.   Notifications must also be written in “plain language” and provide a general description of the breach if this information has been determined.

If it is possible to determine at the time of the breach, the notification must provide the date of the breach, an estimated date of the breach, or a date range within which the breach occurred. Each notice should include the date of the notice. The notification must also state whether the notification was delayed because of a law enforcement investigation.  The law allows, but does not require, the person or business to provide information regarding what the person or business has done to protect individuals whose information has been breached and recommendations on how individuals can protect themselves.

Special requirements also apply to larger-scale breaches. The law requires any agency, person or business that notifies more than 500 California residents to submit a single sample copy of the notification - excluding any personally identifiable information - to the Attorney General. 

In addition, SB 24 provides that HIPAA covered entities following the HITECH Act breach notice requirements will be deemed in compliance with the SB 24 content requirements, but such entities will still have to comply with the Attorney General notice provision.

SB 24 follows recent proposals at the federal level to implement a nationwide data breach notification requirement. See our recent post here for more information.    

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