Major Privacy Bill Races Through California Legislature

If California lawmakers fail to boost consumer privacy rights by Thursday evening, a measure on the November ballot will.

California lawmakers on Thursday are racing to pass a privacy bill — not simply because they can’t wait any longer to give consumers more rights, but so an impenetrable November ballot measure doesn’t beat them to it.

If Gov. Jerry Brown fails to sign the California Data Privacy Protection Act on Thursday by 5 p.m., a ballot measure with similar protections would remain on the November ballot and any changes to the law would be tough to do on their terms. By noon, it passed the Senate.

Alastair Mactaggart, a Bay Area developer who put over $1 million behind the initiative that he wrote, said he would pull it from the November ballot if it was signed into law on Thursday — the last day to do so. So bill spent the day racing through Assembly committees and the Senate floor to meet the deadline. 

In addition to boosting consumers’ legal right to know what happens to their personal information, the measure would require businesses to disclose if it sells that information and outright stop if that consumer tells it to. It also prevents companies from charging fees for such requests or from discriminating against them.

While companies like Google, Facebook, Verizon, and Comcast contributed money to fight the ballot measure, they haven’t fought lawmakers on the proposed bill.

The California bill has the same main requirements but takes potential litigation over violations to the attorney’s general office. It also adds a consumer right to have companies delete all their private information and requires parental approval to sell data on children under the age of 16. 

Both are somewhat inspired by the European Union’s recently-implemented General Data Protection Regulation but until Congress takes action, these rights would extend only to Californians. But the onus is still largely on consumers, who may prefer that their love of Pixar movies or passion for reducing food waste not be sold and marketed to others.

As the ballot measure shows, consumers are getting tired of waiting for elected officials to establish protections that prevent another Cambridge Analytica situation

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