With the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) effective for nearly one month, businesses continue to grapple with the many components of this new privacy framework. A key component of the CCPA is granting consumers the right to request information about and to exercise some control over their personal information. Developing sufficient mechanisms to receive, process and respond to these requests is a central and complex area of compliance for businesses. One aspect of processing consumer requests requires verifying the identity of the individuals making the requests, and their authority to be making the request.
The CCPA directed the State’s Attorney General to establish rules and procedures to govern a business’s determination that certain requests received from a consumer is a “verifiable consumer request.” In fact, the statute provides that businesses are not obligated to provide information to consumers if the business cannot verify the consumer making the request is the consumer about whom the business has collected information or is a person authorized by the consumer. On October 10, 2019, the California Attorney General’s (AG) office issued proposed regulations which, among other things, begin to address how businesses can structure procedures for verifying consumers when they seek to exercise their “Right to Know” and “Right to Delete.”
So how does a company verify a consumer’s identity? In this post, we address the general rules, bearing in mind they may change when the Attorney General’s office finalizes its regulations.
Currently, businesses have some flexibility in determining the method by which they verify a consumer’s identity, although there are some basic guidelines they must follow:
- Where they can feasibly do so, businesses should match the identifying information provided by the consumer to the personal information of the consumer already maintained by the business.
- Businesses should avoid collecting certain types of sensitive personal (e.g. SSN, government IDs, financial information, medical and health information, and biometric data), unless it is necessary to verify. See Civ. Code Sec. 1798.81.5(d).
- Shape the verification method based on certain factors, such as: 1) type, sensitivity or value of personal information, 2) risk of harm to the consumer posed by unauthorized access or deletion, 3) likelihood that bad actors would seek the information, 4) vulnerability to being spoofed or fabricated, 5) manner in which the business interacts with the consumer, and 6) available technology for verification.
- If the business uses a third-party identity verification service, be sure it complies with the CCPA rules for verification. Additionally, businesses should ensure these service providers maintain reasonable safeguards to protect the personal information they process in the course of verification.
The guidelines proposed by the AG’s office regarding verification boils down to “reasonableness” as it gives businesses a wide range of discretion and flexibility to establish a workable method that fits the business’ operation and financial capabilities. After establishing a “reasonable” method, the business has to document and comply with the method they have established.
Depending on the business’ capabilities, they can match the categories of information the consumer provides with the information the business already possesses or utilize a third-party verification service provider. Either way, businesses should refrain from requesting additional information for verification, unless doing so is necessary to protect the consumer.
Once the business has considered these items, they can get to work on shaping specific procedures for verification taking into account issues such as:
- Who can make requests
- Account holders versus non-account
- “Requests to Know” versus “Requests to Delete”
- Requests for categories of information versus specific pieces of information
- Use of Authorized Agents
Please stay tuned as we address these in future blog posts.