Customer list deemed confidential by new state legislation

California’s new law finalizes debate between alarm companies and state officials
Thursday, April 1, 2004

SACRAMENTO, Calif. - A back-and-forth debate between California municipalities and alarm companies over whether their customer lists are considered confidential information and protected under a federal privacy act has been settled by a new state law.

The law, which went into affect at the end of January after it was signed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, says that customer lists are not considered public information.

One city in particular, Los Angeles, requires alarm companies to hand over customer lists as part of its new verified response ordinance. When the city would not sign a letter from alarm companies ensuring that alarm company customer lists would not be made public, that proved to be a concern for the California Alarm Association and its member companies.

“We have high-profile people,” said George Gunning, chief executive officer of USA Alarm Systems and part of the task force that worked with Los Angeles on its new policy. “How can I give them their name and address and responsible party name and address? I can’t do that without getting permission from my client.”

Gunning estimated there are between 250,000 and 300,000 alarm systems in the city of Los Angeles. Most cities, he said, do gather information on alarm customers through their permit process, but when it comes to an alarm company turning over that information, that’s a different matter.

The measure was introduced by state Assemblyman George Nakano, who attached it as part of another bill. The initiative went through in a matter of months. Not only was it supported by the CAA, but also the city of Los Angeles, the San Bernardino County Sheriff and other agencies.

Patty Hartman, president of the California Alarm Association, said protecting customer information was the impetus for the law. Not only does it protect an alarm customer’s information but protects the industry as well.