United States: About California’s Right To Know Act Of 2013 - What, Me Worry?

Last Updated: April 30 2013
Article by Jake Romero

If you got Google, Facebook and Microsoft into a room and asked them to compile a list of things that they are most afraid of, that list would probably look something like this:

  1. Bees
  2. Getting into a Twitter fight with a Justin Bieber fan
  3. California's Right to Know Act of 2013

You may not be familiar with California's Right to Know Act, but you can bet that the largest online retailers and service providers are closely watching the California legislature's proceedings.

So, what is the "Right to Know Act?"

Assembly Bill 1291, introduced by state Assembly member Bonnie Lowenthal, would amend Section 1798.83 of the California Civil Code to require that any business that retains a customer's personal information, or discloses customer personal information to a third party, provide, at no charge and within 30 days of receiving a request from a customer, a copy of all information retained about that customer, as well as the names and contact information for all third parties with which that business has shared customer data within the last 12 months.  This requirement would apply regardless of whether the business has a relationship with the customer.

Think of it as the data privacy version of that bill that required restaurants to list the number of calories in each food item next to that item on the menu.

What would be the practical effect?

If passed in its current form, it would be difficult to overstate the potential impact on online businesses that retain personally identifiable information.  In addition to names, social security numbers, birthdates and similar information, categories of "personal information" can include a user's IP address, mobile device data and geolocation data, which are often collected on an ongoing basis in the background of services that are provided to consumers.  (A complete definition "personal information" and a list of categories of personal information can be found here).

Since the Act requires that the business provide copies of this information to customers who request it, compliance with the Act may require updates to record keeping systems.  Moreover, since copies of information must be provided to the customer free of charge, the cost of complying with such requests must either be borne solely by the business or (as is more likely to be the case) factored into the cost of the services or products offered by the business.

Even the limitations in the scope of the Act create potential pitfalls for online businesses.  For example, the new definition of "retain" does not include storing information solely for one or more of the following purposes:

  • to perform a service or complete a transaction initiated by or on behalf of the customer, including maintaining or servicing accounts, providing customer service, processing or fulfilling orders and transactions, verifying customer information, processing payments, providing financing, or similar services;
  • to address fraud, security, or technical issues; to protect the disclosing business' rights or property; or to protect customers or the public from illegal activities as required or permitted by law; or
  • to comply with applicable law or regulation or with a court order or other legal process where the business has a good-faith belief that the law, regulation, court order, or legal process requires the information to be stored or held.

However, the above exception applies only so long as the information is deleted as soon as it is no longer needed for these purposes.  In other words, any business that intends to rely on this exception will likely need to have a system in place to periodically monitor the information it has collected to delete personally identifiable information that is no longer needed for those specific purposes.  Such businesses will also need to ensure that the information is not being used for any other purpose, since doing so would also invalidate this exception.

Questions to ask in preparation

The Right to Know Act of 2013 isn't the law of land yet — it is working its way throught the legislative process and you can track its status here –  but as it gets closer to adoption the Act's ranking in the list of things that online companies are afraid of will only go up.  In the meantime, there are certain questions you can consider to help you gauge your preparedness:

Do you know the full scope of information that is collected from your users or customers, including background data that is collected automatically?

  • Do you have data retention and destruction policies in place to eliminate personally identifiable information that is no longer necessary?
  • Do you know what personally identifiable information is being collected by all third parties who help you provide services or products?  Do you know what data storage, retention and destruction policies those third parties have in place?
  • For every type of information that is collected, do you have a clear understanding of each way in which the information is used, including for strictly internal purposes like data analytics?

It is essential to ask these questions early because once the Right to Know Act of 2013 gives consumers the right to ask the question, businesses will have to know the answer.  As always, Mintz Levin's  data privacy attorneys are available to help you find the answers you need.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on Mondaq.com.

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

Jake Romero
In association with
Related Topics
Related Articles
Related Video
Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
Mondaq on Twitter
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).
Email Address
Company Name
Confirm Password
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
 Law Performance
 Law Practice
 Media & IT
 Real Estate
 Wealth Mgt
Asia Pacific
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
United States
Worldwide Updates
Registration (you must scroll down to set your data preferences)

Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including your content preferences, for three primary purposes (full details of Mondaq’s use of your personal data can be found in our Privacy and Cookies Notice):

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting to show content ("Content") relevant to your interests.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, news alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our content providers ("Contributors") who contribute Content for free for your use.

Mondaq hopes that our registered users will support us in maintaining our free to view business model by consenting to our use of your personal data as described below.

Mondaq has a "free to view" business model. Our services are paid for by Contributors in exchange for Mondaq providing them with access to information about who accesses their content. Once personal data is transferred to our Contributors they become a data controller of this personal data. They use it to measure the response that their articles are receiving, as a form of market research. They may also use it to provide Mondaq users with information about their products and services.

Details of each Contributor to which your personal data will be transferred is clearly stated within the Content that you access. For full details of how this Contributor will use your personal data, you should review the Contributor’s own Privacy Notice.

Please indicate your preference below:

Yes, I am happy to support Mondaq in maintaining its free to view business model by agreeing to allow Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors whose Content I access
No, I do not want Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors

Also please let us know whether you are happy to receive communications promoting products and services offered by Mondaq:

Yes, I am happy to received promotional communications from Mondaq
No, please do not send me promotional communications from Mondaq
Terms & Conditions

Mondaq.com (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd (Mondaq). Mondaq grants you a non-exclusive, revocable licence to access the Website and associated services, such as the Mondaq News Alerts (Services), subject to and in consideration of your compliance with the following terms and conditions of use (Terms). Your use of the Website and/or Services constitutes your agreement to the Terms. Mondaq may terminate your use of the Website and Services if you are in breach of these Terms or if Mondaq decides to terminate the licence granted hereunder for any reason whatsoever.

Use of www.mondaq.com

To Use Mondaq.com you must be: eighteen (18) years old or over; legally capable of entering into binding contracts; and not in any way prohibited by the applicable law to enter into these Terms in the jurisdiction which you are currently located.

You may use the Website as an unregistered user, however, you are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the Content or to receive the Services.

You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these Terms or with the prior written consent of Mondaq. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information from the Content. Nor shall you extract information about users or Contributors in order to offer them any services or products.

In your use of the Website and/or Services you shall: comply with all applicable laws, regulations, directives and legislations which apply to your Use of the Website and/or Services in whatever country you are physically located including without limitation any and all consumer law, export control laws and regulations; provide to us true, correct and accurate information and promptly inform us in the event that any information that you have provided to us changes or becomes inaccurate; notify Mondaq immediately of any circumstances where you have reason to believe that any Intellectual Property Rights or any other rights of any third party may have been infringed; co-operate with reasonable security or other checks or requests for information made by Mondaq from time to time; and at all times be fully liable for the breach of any of these Terms by a third party using your login details to access the Website and/or Services

however, you shall not: do anything likely to impair, interfere with or damage or cause harm or distress to any persons, or the network; do anything that will infringe any Intellectual Property Rights or other rights of Mondaq or any third party; or use the Website, Services and/or Content otherwise than in accordance with these Terms; use any trade marks or service marks of Mondaq or the Contributors, or do anything which may be seen to take unfair advantage of the reputation and goodwill of Mondaq or the Contributors, or the Website, Services and/or Content.

Mondaq reserves the right, in its sole discretion, to take any action that it deems necessary and appropriate in the event it considers that there is a breach or threatened breach of the Terms.

Mondaq’s Rights and Obligations

Unless otherwise expressly set out to the contrary, nothing in these Terms shall serve to transfer from Mondaq to you, any Intellectual Property Rights owned by and/or licensed to Mondaq and all rights, title and interest in and to such Intellectual Property Rights will remain exclusively with Mondaq and/or its licensors.

Mondaq shall use its reasonable endeavours to make the Website and Services available to you at all times, but we cannot guarantee an uninterrupted and fault free service.

Mondaq reserves the right to make changes to the services and/or the Website or part thereof, from time to time, and we may add, remove, modify and/or vary any elements of features and functionalities of the Website or the services.

Mondaq also reserves the right from time to time to monitor your Use of the Website and/or services.


The Content is general information only. It is not intended to constitute legal advice or seek to be the complete and comprehensive statement of the law, nor is it intended to address your specific requirements or provide advice on which reliance should be placed. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the Content for any purpose. All Content provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers hereby exclude and disclaim all representations, warranties or guarantees with regard to the Content, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. To the maximum extent permitted by law, Mondaq expressly excludes all representations, warranties, obligations, and liabilities arising out of or in connection with all Content. In no event shall Mondaq and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use of the Content or performance of Mondaq’s Services.


Mondaq may alter or amend these Terms by amending them on the Website. By continuing to Use the Services and/or the Website after such amendment, you will be deemed to have accepted any amendment to these Terms.

These Terms shall be governed by and construed in accordance with the laws of England and Wales and you irrevocably submit to the exclusive jurisdiction of the courts of England and Wales to settle any dispute which may arise out of or in connection with these Terms. If you live outside the United Kingdom, English law shall apply only to the extent that English law shall not deprive you of any legal protection accorded in accordance with the law of the place where you are habitually resident ("Local Law"). In the event English law deprives you of any legal protection which is accorded to you under Local Law, then these terms shall be governed by Local Law and any dispute or claim arising out of or in connection with these Terms shall be subject to the non-exclusive jurisdiction of the courts where you are habitually resident.

You may print and keep a copy of these Terms, which form the entire agreement between you and Mondaq and supersede any other communications or advertising in respect of the Service and/or the Website.

No delay in exercising or non-exercise by you and/or Mondaq of any of its rights under or in connection with these Terms shall operate as a waiver or release of each of your or Mondaq’s right. Rather, any such waiver or release must be specifically granted in writing signed by the party granting it.

If any part of these Terms is held unenforceable, that part shall be enforced to the maximum extent permissible so as to give effect to the intent of the parties, and the Terms shall continue in full force and effect.

Mondaq shall not incur any liability to you on account of any loss or damage resulting from any delay or failure to perform all or any part of these Terms if such delay or failure is caused, in whole or in part, by events, occurrences, or causes beyond the control of Mondaq. Such events, occurrences or causes will include, without limitation, acts of God, strikes, lockouts, server and network failure, riots, acts of war, earthquakes, fire and explosions.

By clicking Register you state you have read and agree to our Terms and Conditions