California Governor Praises New Privacy Law, Wants 'Data Dividend' For Residents

Silicon Valley companies should pay state residents a “data dividend” to compensate them for their information, California Gov. Gavin Newsom suggested this week in his first State of the State address.

"California's consumers should also be able to share in the wealth that is created from their data," Newsom said Thursday, near the end of his 43-minute address. Newsom didn't elaborate on his proposal other than to say that California could “do something bold in this space.”

He also cheered passage of the “first-in-the-nation digital privacy law” -- referring to the California Consumer Privacy Act -- signed into law last year.

That measure, which won't be enforced until 2020, allows consumers to learn what personal information about them is held by businesses, and to opt out of the sale of that information.

“Companies that make ... billions of dollars collecting, curating, monetizing our personal data also have a duty to protect it,” the new governor said. “Consumers have the right to know and control how their data is being used.”

His remarks come as politicians are increasingly criticizing tech companies over their online privacy practices. On Sunday, Democratic Senator Amy Klobuchar (Minnesota) launched her presidential bid with a call for new privacy protections.

“We need to put some digital rules of the road into law when it comes to people's privacy,” Klobuchar said. “For too long, the big tech companies have been telling you, 'Don't worry, we've got your back,' while your identities in fact are being stolen and your data mined.”

Elected officials have tried to tackle online privacy in the past, but without much success on the national level.

Those earlier efforts, however, occurred before last year's blockbuster revelation that President Trump's data consultancy, Cambridge Analytica, harvested information from up to 87 million unsuspecting Facebook users. That news went a long way toward spurring the current push for privacy laws -- both at the state and federal level.

In the last 10 months, several lawmakers on Capitol Hill have either already introduced new national bills or have vowed to soon do so. Statehouses are also moving forward with privacy initiatives, including new laws. Last May, Vermont became the first state in the country to regulate data brokers.

Notably, it's not only Democrats who are calling for new privacy protections. Republicans in Congress and in at least some states have also expressed support for new statutes.

In California, Republicans recently proposed a bill that would expand on the new privacy law Santa Clara University law professor Eric Goldman reports. The proposed bill would require social media companies to permanently delete all personally identifiable information about people who close their accounts, at their request.

Last month, a Washington state senator introduced a bill that would lawmakers are considering a bill that would not only give consumers the right to learn what data is collected about them, but would also allow them to prevent their personal data to be used for ad targeting.

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