California Poised to Make History Again – This One has Even Bigger Impact

In June Governor Brown signed Assembly Bill 375, the California Consumer Privacy Act which is the only law in the country that offers consumers far more control over their data in the hands of third parties such as Internet based companies.

Now AB 1906 is headed to Governor Brown to sign.  If he does, and there is no reason to think that he won’t,  it will require manufacturers of Internet of Things devices to implement “reasonable” (there is that undefined word again) security features that are appropriate to the nature and function of the device, appropriate to the information collected or stored and designed to protect the device and information from destruction, use, modification or disclosure.

At least it says appropriate to the nature and function of the device.  A light bulb is probably less sensitive than, say, a smart door lock.

One thing the law called out is the use of default userids and passwords like admin/admin or user/user.  It says that it would a reasonable security feature that the password required to access the device is UNIQUE to each and every device or requires the user to change the password before the device is available online.

It does not make the manufacturer responsible for software that the buyer installs on the device (thankfully) and also exempts any device that is regulated by a federal agency (like HIPAA) to the extent that the activity in question is covered by HIPAA. 

Unlike the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA), this law has no  private right of action.

It does, however, allow any California city attorney, county attorney, district attorney or the Attorney General to enforce the law.

While it does not say anything about making patches available, since there is a requirement to have security features that protect the device and  information, if there are bugs found after it is built, it would seem reasonable that the manufacturers will have to fix that.  If true, that would mean that they have to have a  mechanism to patch the software.

Unlike the CCPA, most companies who manufacture IoT devices will be impacted because they are unlikely to bar California residents from buying their products or California stores from selling them and it would be cost prohibitive to build two versions of a cheap IoT device unlike, say, two versions of car – one that meets California emissions requirements and one that does not.

For consumers across the country, this is a good thing because they will benefit from increased security of IoT devices based on California law.

Information for this post came from the National Law Review.

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