Privacy Advocates Press Forward With New California Ballot Initiative

A California advocacy group has gathered more than 900,000 signatures for a new ballot initiative that could toughen the state's existing privacy law.

Assuming enough signatures are valid, state residents could vote this November on the proposed California Privacy Rights Act, the newest initiative of Californians for Consumer Privacy, a group spearheaded by entrepreneur Alastair Mactaggart.

The proposed new law aims to strengthen the already broad Consumer Privacy Act in several respects. Among others, the new proposal would make it more difficult for companies to draw on some types of data -- including information about race, ethnicity, health and finances -- for ad purposes.

The new measure would also enable consumers to prevent precise geolocation tracking.

That ability “would mean no more tracking consumers in rehab, a cancer clinic, at the gym (for how long) at a fast food restaurant (how often), sleeping in a separate part of the house from their partner (how recently), etc., all with the intention of monetizing that most intimate data that makes up people’s lives,” sponsors say in a summary of the bill.



The proposal also includes provisions aimed at preventing state lawmakers from watering down the law in the future.

Sponsors say a survey conducted last October shows that 88% of state residents would vote in favor of the initiative.

The initiative needs 623,212 signatures to qualify for a spot on the November ballot.

California's existing privacy law was passed in 2018, after Mactaggart's organization agreed to withdraw an earlier ballot initiative that would have codified privacy rights.

The current law, which took effect this year, gives consumers the right to learn what personal information about them is held by businesses, request deletion of that information, and opt out of its sale. The law's broad definition of personal information includes web-browsing activity and other data used for targeted advertising.

The Association of National Advertisers says the new initiative shows the need for a national law.

Without a national standard, the country will have “a totally balkanized regulatory scheme that's not going to work for anybody,” says Dan Jaffe, ANA group executive vice president for government relations.

He adds that the ballot initiative could cause more uncertainty for advertisers, noting that California hasn't yet set out regulations to implement the existing California Consumer Privacy Act.

“We still don't have a final rulemaking for the CCPA,” Jaffe says. “And now, here we go again.”

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