The California Supreme Court ruled Thursday, in Pineda v. Williams-Sonoma, that zip codes are "personal identification information" for purposes of California's Song-Beverly Credit Card Act, California Civil Code section 1747.08. Really.
On Friday, the California Court of Appeal, Fourth Appellate District, certified for publication its October 8 opinion in Pineda v. Williams-Sonoma, the most recent in a string of decisions regarding California's Song-Beverly Credit Card Act of 1971, California Civil Code § 1747.08. On first glance, Pineda appears uneventful. The Court merely reiterated its December 2008 holding in Party City v. Superior Court, 169 Cal.App.4th 497 (2008), that zip codes are not personal identification information for purposes of the Act, right? Not so fast. In fact, the Pineda court added a couple of new wrinkles that are worth a second look. First, the court reaffirmed its Party City holding even though Pineda specifically alleged that Williams-Sonoma collected the zip code for the purpose of using it and the customer's name to obtain even MORE personal identification information, the customer's address, through the use of a "reverse search" database. Second, the court held that a retailer's use of a legally obtained zip code to acquire, view, print, distribute or use an address that is otherwise publicly available does not amount to an offensive intrusion of a consumer's privacy under California law.