California blazes trail again with enhanced breach alert law

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After being vetoed twice by the prior administration, a bill that updates California's pioneering data breach notification law was signed into law Wednesday by Gov. Jerry Brown.

Introduced by Democratic state Sen. Joe Simitian, SB-24 bolsters SB-1386, the nation's first law requiring companies to alert California residents if their personal data is accessed illegally. Since that legislation took effect eight years ago, nearly all 50 states have followed suit with their own versions.

The update, meanwhile, requires that breach notification letters contain specifics of the incident, including the type of personal information exposed, a description of what happened, and advice on steps to take to protect oneself from identity theft. The law also mandates that organizations that sustain a breach affecting 500 or more people submit a copy of the alert letter to the state attorney general's office.

"No one likes to get the news that personal information about them has been stolen," Simitian said. "But when it happens, people deserve to get the information they need to decide what to do next."

The bill faced an uphill climb, however. Twice before, it had gone to former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's desk to be signed, but was vetoed. In defense, Schwarzenegger said there was no proof the additional information required by the legislation would actually help consumers. In addition, he said he saw no reason why the attorney general's office needed to become a "repository" of breach notifications.

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