Advocates Seek To Toughen California Privacy Law

Privacy advocates who spearheaded a groundbreaking new law in California are now pushing for even tougher measures.

This week, real estate developer Alastair Mactaggart, chair of Californians for Consumer Privacy, unveiled a new ballot initiative that would beef up the California Consumer Privacy Act by making it more difficult for companies to draw on some types of data -- including information about race, ethnicity, health and finances -- for ad purposes.

The proposal, which could be on the 2020 ballot, would also prohibit companies from collecting more data than needed, and would require companies to obtain opt-in consent from teens between the ages of 13 and 15 before gathering their data.



“In a very fundamental way, democracy depends on privacy,” Mactaggart wrote this week in an open letter. “We are engaged in a new experiment now, where a handful of giant corporations know almost everything about us, chronicling everything we’ve searched for, following every one of our digital footprints, and analyzing that to control what we see every day. These are perhaps the most powerful tools for influence in human history…shouldn’t consumers have a choice about how their own data is used?"

In 2018, Mactaggart backed a ballot initiative on privacy that would have given state residents many of the same rights that were eventually enshrined in the California Consumer Privacy Act.

That law, slated to take effect next year, allows consumers to learn what personal information about them is held by businesses, request deletion of that information, and to opt out of its sale. The law's broad definition of personal information includes web-browsing activity and other data used for targeted advertising.

Mactaggart and other backers withdrew the proposal after the privacy law was signed. Before doing so, they gathered 625,000 signatures in favor of the measure -- almost twice as many as the 365,880 needed to qualify for a spot on the ballot. Supporters include the Consumer Federation of California, search engine Duck Duck Go, Consumers Union and the Center for Public Interest Law.

In the 15 months since lawmakers passed the California Consumer Privacy Act, web companies and the ad industry have attempted to pass amendments that would make the measure more marketer friendly. So far, those efforts have mostly failed.

But Mactaggart obviously hopes to make it harder to defang privacy laws in the future. He writes that the new ballot proposal would enshrine privacy rights by specifically requiring that “future amendments be in furtherance of the law.”

He adds: “While amendments will be necessary given how technically complex and fast-moving this area is, this approach respects the role of the legislature while still providing substantial protections for Californians from attempts to weaken the law and their new human rights.”

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