California Judge Sides With Privacy Advocates On Ballot Initiative Deadline

Advocates behind a proposed privacy initiative in California have scored a courtroom victory in their attempt to secure a spot on the November ballot.

Late last week, a judge in Sacramento granted the advocates' request for an order ensuring that petition signatures are counted in time for the proposed California Privacy Rights Act to qualify for this year's election.

“Petitioners have presented a compelling demonstration of irreparable harm if the petition ... is denied,” Superior Court Judge Shelleyanne W. L. Chang wrote.

The order stemmed from a request by Californians for Consumer Privacy -- spearheaded by entrepreneur Alastair Mactaggart -- which recently submitted more than 930,000 signatures on petitions for the initiative. If around 630,000 of those signatures are deemed valid by the state's counties, the measure will appear on the November ballot.

California counties are currently determining the validity of the signatures -- a process that involves random sampling.

Last week, Mactaggart and the other advocates sought an order requiring California Secretary of State Alex Padilla to direct county officials to complete the sampling process by June 25 -- the deadline for this year's ballot.

Padilla had previously directed officials to complete the process by June 26.

In a written decision, Chang rejected arguments by the state that the measure could be placed on the ballot in 2022, if officials missed this year's deadline for certifying signatures.

“Such a delay in the ability of more than 931,000 California voters who signed petitions to exercise their constitutionally guaranteed initiative power is indeed an irreparable harm,” she wrote. “The court notes that the subject matter of this initiative involves the constitutional right to privacy declared inalienable and guaranteed by ... the California Constitution.”

The California Privacy Rights Act aims to strengthen the already broad California Consumer Privacy Act in several areas. 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 measure also includes provisions aimed at preventing state lawmakers from watering down the law in the future.

The current California Consumer Privacy Act, 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. 

Mactaggart says in the new petition that since the California Consumer Privacy Act was enacted, state lawmakers have considered weakening the law.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has underscored both the value and utility of personal information, and the risk that the misuse of such information could pose to consumers,” the advocates wrote last week. “The initiative addresses these concerns by expanding the right of consumers to limit the use of their sensitive personal information, including health data and precise geolocation.”

Next story loading loading..