Question 2: What is “personal information?”

The CCPA defines the phrase “personal information” to refer to any information that “identifies, relates to, describes, is capable of being associated with, or could reasonably be linked, directly or indirectly, with a particular consumer or household.”[1] While at first blush the phrase “consumer” suggests that the CCPA does not apply to employees, the CCPA defines the term as including any California resident about whom a company collects information. As a result, as the CCPA is currently written, it applies only to the information collected about California-based employees.

The CCPA provides an extensive, and yet non-exhaustive, list of information that may fall under the broad definition of “personal information. The following are examples of information governed by the CCPA that employers are most likely to collect about their employees:

  1. Real name[2]
  2. Postal address[3]
  3. Email address[4]
  4. Social Security Number[5]
  5. Driver’s license number[6]
  6. Passport number[7]
  7. Signature[8]
  8. Physical characteristics or description[9]
  9. Telephone number[10]
  10. State identification card number[11]
  11. Insurance policy number[12]
  12. Education[13]
  13. Educational information (as defined by 34 C.F.R. Part 99)[14]
  14. Employment[15]
  15. Employment history[16]
  16. Bank account number[17]
  17. Credit card number[18]
  18. Characteristics of protected classification under California law[19]
  19. Characteristics of protected classification under federal law[20]
  20. Biometric information[21]
  21. Internet or other electronic network activity[22]
  22. Browsing history[23]
  23. Search history[24]
  24. Audio information[25]
  25. Electronic information[26]
  26. Visual information[27]
  27. Profiles of a consumer’s behavior[28]
  28. Profiles of a consumer’s attitudes[29]
  29. Profiles of a consumer’s intelligence[30]
  30. Profiles of a consumer’s abilities[31]
  31. Profiles of a consumer’s aptitudes[32]

For employers who have had to comply with the GDPR, it is useful to understand how the CCPA’s definition of “personal information” compares to the GDPR’s definition.

The CCPA’s definition of “personal information” is not identical to the definition used within the European GDPR, but there are obvious similarities. The GDPR refers to the term “personal data” which it defines as “any information relating to an identified or identifiable” person.[33] An “identifiable person” under the GDPR is someone who could be “identified, directly or indirectly, in particular by reference to an identifier such as a name, an identification number, location data, an online identifier or to one or more factors specific to physical, physiological, genetic, mental, economic, cultural, or social identity of that natural person.”[34]