California's new online privacy law takes effect on Jan. 1, 2020. (Photo by Sestovic/istock, via CalMatters)

Californians have grown increasingly concerned about who has access to their digital data — and how it’s being used.

Faced with a possible initiative asking voters if they want to toughen safeguards of their own privacy, state lawmakers instead approved a new consumer privacy law giving people a window into what information companies collect.

When it takes effect Jan. 1, California’s data privacy law will be the most stringent in the country. Signed by former Gov. Jerry Brown in 2018, it gives users new rights when it comes to how their online data is used, sold or stored. In addition, it places more responsibilities on businesses.

The privacy law is a compromise between big tech and privacy advocates. Businesses must comply if their revenues exceed $25 million a year, if they get at least half their annual revenue from selling consumers’ personal information, or if they buy or sell personal data of at least 50,000 households a year.

As many as 500,000 companies are likely to have to follow the law. It does not apply to journalistic endeavors and nonprofit organizations.

Aspects of the data privacy law:

  • Requires businesses to give you all the information they collect about you, free of charge, if you request it from them
  • Businesses must delete information they have collected from you, if you ask them to
  • Requires businesses that sell personal information to create a simple way for you to opt out of having your data sold, through a “recognizable and uniform” button or logo on the company’s website.

In this video, CalMatters’ political reporter Laurel Rosenhall breaks down the new law in one minute. You also can read her in-depth explainer on the new law.

CalMatters is building a video playlist to explains how various new laws will influence the lives of Californians. You can subscribe to our YouTube channel here, and check out other selections from the playlist below: is a nonprofit, nonpartisan media venture explaining California policies and politics.