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GDPR vs. CCPA: Privacy Regulation Showdown

GDPR vs. CCPA: Understanding the Differences and Business Impacts of Leading Privacy Regulations


In the battle for corporate attention between Privacy and Security, addressing privacy regulations is the priority for corporate leaders. Why? Regulators are handing out fines if customer data is stolen. Two of the most significant privacy regulations are the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA). This blog post will explore the key differences between these two regulations and their implications for businesses.


While going through the differences between these two regulations, I would like you to think of what is missing from GDPR that CCPA requires. In other words, if your organization is adequately addressing the GDPR, is there anything that CCPA throws at you that would require some form of investment?


This is the thing about standards. If you address the hardest one first, the other standards and regulations fall by the wayside. Makes me wonder why there are so many different standards out there that basically say the same thing.


1. Origins and Jurisdiction

GDPR: Implemented in May 2018, the GDPR is a regulation that applies to all member states of the European Union. It aims to protect the personal data of EU citizens, regardless of where the processing takes place. This means that even non-EU-based companies that process the data of EU citizens must comply.


CCPA: Effective from January 2020, the CCPA is a state law that applies to businesses operating within California. However, like the GDPR, its reach is extraterritorial. Any company that processes the personal information of California residents, regardless of where the company is based, must comply if they meet certain criteria.


2. Scope and Applicability

GDPR: Applies to any organization, regardless of size, that processes the personal data of EU citizens.


CCPA: Targets businesses that have gross annual revenues of over $25 million, handle the personal information of 50,000 or more California consumers, households, or devices, or earn more than half of their annual revenue from selling California consumers’ personal information.


Of note, both the GDPR and the CCPA have extraterritorial applicability. Meaning, it doesn’t matter where the organization is located. If you are handling people’s data in the EU/EEA, you are subject to GDPR. If you handle Californian residents’ data, CCPA applies. Handling both? Then yes, both GDPR and CCPA apply to you.


3. Consumer Rights

GDPR: Provides EU citizens with several rights, including the right to access, rectify, delete, and object to the processing of their data. Additionally, they have the right to data portability and the right to be informed about data breaches.


CCPA: Grants California residents the right to know what personal information is collected, accessed, or sold. They also have the right to opt-out of the sale of their personal information, the right to delete their data, and the right to non-discrimination for exercising their CCPA rights.


4. Penalties

GDPR: Non-compliance can result in hefty fines, up to €20 million or 4% of the company’s global annual turnover (whichever is higher).


CCPA: Fines can reach up to $7,500 per intentional violation and $2,500 for unintentional violations. Additionally, individuals can sue companies in the event of a data breach, with statutory damages ranging from $100 to $750 per consumer, per incident.


5. Data Sale and Opt-Out

GDPR: Does not specifically address the sale of personal data but requires clear consent for data processing. Users must have the option to opt-out.


CCPA: Explicitly addresses the sale of personal data. Businesses must provide a clear and accessible “Do Not Sell My Personal Information” link on their homepage.


Here’s a chart that breaks down the differences between the GDPR and CCPA:

Comparison chart between GDPR and CCPA

Impact on Businesses

Global Operations: Companies with a global presence or those that process data from EU citizens or California residents must ensure they are compliant with both regulations, which may require significant changes to data handling and processing practices.


Transparency: Both regulations emphasize transparency, meaning businesses must be clear about how they collect, use, and share personal data.


Increased Accountability: Companies are now more accountable for data breaches and must have robust data protection measures in place.


Consumer Trust: Compliance is not just about avoiding penalties. Demonstrating adherence to these regulations can enhance consumer trust, which is invaluable in the digital age.


As far as training goes, most, if not all cybersecurity (e.g. CISSP) and cloud security courses (e.g. CCSP, CCSK) address the GDPR and the CCPA, so this material is something you should be comfortable with when taking your exam.

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Graham Thompson is an Information Security professional with over 25 years of enterprise experience across engineering, architecture, assessment and training disciplines. He is the founder and CEO of Intrinsec Security, a leading training company that is solely focused on delivering leading authorized IT security training from partners such as the Cloud Security Alliance, ISC2, ISACA, EC-Council and CompTIA.

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