The Key Differences Between GDPR and CCPA

The California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) and the European General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) are the data privacy and security laws that are reshaping the global business scene. Both regulations aim to guarantee strong protection of individual data rights depending on the territories they cover.  

The two laws bear similarity regarding their definition of certain terminology, the inclusion of rights to access Personal Identifiable Information (PPI), and the establishment of additional rules for individuals younger than 16 years of age.

However, the main differences between GDPR and CCPA lie in the scope of application, requirements in relation to accountability, and the nature and extent of data collection. The differences between GDPR and CCPA also reflect in the type of businesses they apply to and their penalty structures.

GDPR may represent the game-changer as it came into force first and remains the most comprehensive data privacy and protection law to date. However, California as the fifth largest global economy doesn’t lack influence on the many countries’ jurisdictions worldwide as well.

If your business operates globally, you are required to comply with both policies.

While there are similarities, which can mislead you to complying with only one, the differences between the GDPR and CCPA policies are significant.

Thus, let’s elaborate on the GDPR and CCPA compliance in more detail!

The 10 Key Differences Between GDPR and CCPA


1. The Year of Enforcement

The GDPR was adopted in 2016 and went into effect on May 25, 2018, introducing the foundation for all the future global data privacy and protection policies. On the other hand, the CCPA, a bit younger of a law, started being enforced on January 1 this year. However, law officials on both sides of the globe have already issued multiple hefty fines, making compliance a serious job to do.

They both excel in reaching their goals, paving the way to a more data secured world. This is especially important for California, where all the major data companies operate. The Silicon Valley CEOs have an important task on their desks:  completely comply with both the policies or risk serious business consequences.

2. Territory that falls under the GDPR and CCPA

As its name may lead you to a conclusion, the CCPA applies to the whole state of California, protecting its residents and other private entities that share or sell their data. CCPA doesn’t apply to a resident of Washington DC that is currently visiting Californian cousins for a couple of weeks. However, it does apply to Californian spending time in a hotel in Washington.

On the other hand GDPR requirements tie to the European Union, which has 27 member states. The countries included are Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, and Sweden. As you can see, there are many countries included; however, if you registered your business or sell your products and services in any of these countries, you must comply with the GDPR requirements.

3. Type of businesses that are subject to the requirements

Businesses of all sizes that process data of EU citizens, residents, and all individuals within the EU territory, irrespective of their location, fall under the GDPR policy. On the other hand, the CCPA policy is slightly narrower in its scope here.

CCPA only applies to California-based for-profit organizations that record a revenue higher than $25 million, collect data of more than 50,000 data subjects, and have a core business that is the sale of personal data.

This is because there is the opinion that some companies can’t afford the pricey compliance, which is why the officials went easy on non-profit organizations, charities, and small businesses. However, the European Union expects that every private institution that collects EU data establishes a data privacy and protection policy.

4. The differences between GDPR and CCPA in relation to consumer definition

Both CCPA and GDPR have endowed consumers with specific novel data rights, giving them more control over the handling and possessing their own data. Examples of such regulations are the rights to access the collected data and the right to completely delete their data history.

However, one of the differences between GDPR and CCPA is how these policies define the consumer. For the GDPR, a consumer includes every EU citizen, resident, or individual.

Compared to this definition, the CCPA broadened consumer rights clauses. Here, they refer to California citizens and residents as well as households. Any identifiable entity that has the ability to share data is considered a consumer. As you can see, respecting CCPA consumer rights is a bit more complex job.

5. The amount of financial penalties

One of the key differences between GDPR and CCPA, and probably the scariest, concerns  their fine systems. The GDPR officials have imposed a very strict penalty structure for non-compliance or data breach. It implies fines as high as the base fine of 20 million euros if the company’s annual revenue is lower than this amount or 4% of the company’s global turnover in case the turnover is higher than the base fine.

Observing these amounts of money, the CCPA went easier on companies. It imposed penalties per violation of up to $7,500. However, the violation here doesn’t refer to non-compliance. It only means data breach and misuse of the data, whereas GDPR punishes business for not establishing policies that comply with the GDPR requirements as well.

But the crucial CCPA innovation is that every single data subject can sue a data collector company for the violation, forming incredibly gigantic class action lawsuits that surpass any type of the GDPR fine. Now, the CCPA fine sounds scarier, right?

6. Data Security

According to the GDPR policy, you are required to establish a special data controller and processor body within your company that will supervise the compliance. Besides overseeing, this processor body or employee is responsible for deploying the company data privacy and protection policy as well as employing the tools and practices that ensure complete compliance.

In the European Union, that person or department is called a DPO, which needs to be free from all company loyalties and compromising intents to ensure objective and valid GDPR compliance surveillance.

The DPO can be a person outside the company, too. However, it is found that many companies opt for the first option.  The CCPA didn’t follow this example and doesn’t require anything similar. It only gives the power to consumers, as mentioned above, to punish companies for the violation of their data sharing contract.

7. Representative requirements

The GDPR has a solution even for companies that are not registered in the EU. In this case, the companies must legally designate a EU representative that will be responsible for data collection, processing, and storing of the EU data subjects.  On the other hand, the CCPA hasn’t noted anything similar.

8. Opt-out rights clauses

This is one of the interesting and tricky differences between GDPR and CCPA. Both policies provide consumers with the right to opt-out from data sharing practices. The GDPR mandates the right to opt-out from data sharing for marketing purposes and the right to withdraw consent for complete data collection, processing, and storing.

However, it doesn’t emphasize the need for the right to opt-out of data sale which CCPA does. More specifically, the CCPA requires that all for-profit organizations provide a clearly visible option to opt-out of sale such as “Don’t Sell My Personal Information”. In case they receive such a request, they are not allowed to ask for the sale of their data for another 12 months. As you can see, the CCPA is really not the same as the GDPR.

9. The rights to rectify

One of the GDPR requirements is also the consumer right to rectify. Here, the EU data subject has the right to request from a company to correct any incomplete or incorrect part of their PPI. You may agree that this rule is good for both the company and the consumer as no one wants to operate with incorrect  data. On the other hand, there is no such right in the CCPA policy.

10. Age of consent limit

Age of consent for GDPR compliance is 16 years, meaning that parents are responsible for the consent of any individual under the age of 16. Companies are also required to provide a clear age-related notice to children, so they can easily understand what they are asked to do. For this kind of sensitive data, the companies need to increase security to minimize any chance for the childrens’ data misuse.

In California, the age of a data sale consent limit is 13 years. If a child falls under this age limit, a parent or a guardian must submit consent. Another age limit rule is that kids under 16 years old can’t be responsible for data sharing opt-in consent. Again, the responsible adult needs to be that person.

Did this article help you get a clearer picture of the differences between GDPR and CCPA? It is not easy to comprehend the specifics of these new laws and you may not have enough time for that, which is why we created this article for you. Now you just need to work on complying with the specifics of these laws. However, imagine how much time you could save if one helpdesk software, which you also use for your customer service management, could do all of that for you.

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