Microsoft Endorses Washington State Proposed Privacy Bill

A proposed privacy bill in Washington state is garnering support from hometown tech giant Microsoft.

The Washington Privacy Act, introduced by Senator Reuven Carlyle (D-Seattle), would give consumers the right to learn what data is collected about them and whether the information is sold to outside companies. The bill would also allow consumers to prevent their personal data to be used for direct marketing, including ad-targeting based on consumer profiles.

The measure defines “personal data” as information relating to either “identified” or “identifiable” people. The definition excludes data that can't be linked to individuals “without additional information kept separately.”

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“Sen. Carlyle’s bill builds on the best aspects of approaches elsewhere, and we endorse it,” Microsoft President Brad Smith said Monday in a blog post. “As the legislation moves forward, it will be important for stakeholders to come together to work through important details, including provisions that exempt small businesses that impact fewer consumers.”

The proposed bill exempts companies Washington businesses that control or process data from fewer than 100,000 customers, unless those companies sell personal information. Washington businesses that sell personal information are only exempted from the law if they control or process data from fewer than 25,000 customers, and derive less than 50% of revenue from the sale of personal information.

Late last month, the major ad organizations weighed in against the proposed law.

“We are ... concerned that differing privacy laws from state to state will create a fragmented Internet environment for consumers,” the Association of National Advertisers, American Advertising Federation, American Association of Advertising Agencies, Interactive Advertising Bureau and Network Advertising Initiative said in a Jan. 30 letter to Carlyle. “A patchwork of legislation throughout the United States will create consumer confusion and present significant challenges for businesses trying to comply with these laws.”

California recently passed a privacy law that contains some provisions similar to the proposal in Washington. The California measure, slated for enforcement next year, allows consumers to learn what personal information about them is held by businesses, and to opt out of the sale of that information.

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