Privacy Law Update Would Give Californians More Control Over Data

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Voters in California, who backed a far-reaching digital privacy law two years ago, are now facing a war of words over a ballot measure that would update that law. The so-called Proposition 24 has drawn fire from some consumer and privacy advocates, the Associated Press reported.

The 2018 law, which took effect in January, gave California residents the right to know about the personal information companies collect about them while they are online. It also gave consumers the right to opt out of the sale of that personal information and to have the data deleted.

The law covers a wide range of personal information, including names, addresses, Social Security and passport numbers, email addresses, internet browsing histories, purchasing histories, health information, professional or employment information, educational records and information from GPS apps and programs.

Supporters of the 2020 ballot initiative said it aims to close loopholes in the existing law.

“The important thing to realize is that business isn’t standing still,” said Alastair Mactaggart, a San Francisco developer who led support for the 2018 law and is behind the effort to update it. Proposition 24 will “put a floor under privacy,” he told the Associated Press, noting that big companies have found ways to avoid the law’s requirements.

However, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of California, the Consumer Federation of California and Public Citizen have all lined up against Proposition 24.

“There are some things that are incremental steps forward,” said Jacob Snow, a technology and civil liberties attorney at the ACLU of Northern California. “Overall, it is a step backwards for privacy in California.”

A key issue is that under the current law, consumers must ask companies to stop selling their personal information, or “opt-out.” That requires consumers to register their preferences at an array of apps and websites. “That’s just impossible for people to realistically do,” Snow said. He said that a better approach is to require the companies to seek permission from consumers if they wish to sell their data, known as “opt-in.”

Supporters of the measure include Consumer Reports, Common Sense Media and Consumer Watchdog, which said the ballot measure will strengthen the California privacy law.

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