New Privacy Proposal In California Draws Mixed Reaction From Watchdogs

A new privacy proposal in California that aims to strengthen the already broad California Consumer Privacy Act is drawing mixed reactions by watchdogs and advocacy groups.

The proposed California Privacy Rights Act (Proposition 24) -- spearheaded by the same group behind the California's current privacy law -- recently secured a spot on the November ballot.

Backers, including entrepreneur Alastair Mactaggart, contend that the new proposal will beef up the landmark California Consumer Privacy Act in several ways -- including by making it harder for companies to draw on data about consumers' race, ethnicity, health, or finances for advertising purposes. The new proposal 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 argues the new measure is needed for several reasons, including that in the two years since the California Consumer Privacy Act was enacted, state lawmakers have considered weakening the law.

Backers also say the new measure will eliminate some loopholes in the current law -- including one that may allow companies to continue serving targeted ads to web users even if they attempt to opt out of the sale of their data.

The California NAACP is among the groups supporting the measure.

“The world's biggest corporations are collecting deploy personal and private information about all of us. Sadly, our current laws aren't strong enough to protect us or our families from those who would abuse our most personal information,” the California NAACP, Common Sense Media and Mactaggart's Californians for Consumer Privacy, write in an argument just posted on the California Secretary of State's voter information guide.

But others, including the ACLU of California and Consumer Federation of California, have come out against the 52-page proposal, which they call “52 pages of fine print.”

“California's new privacy law just took effect this year,” the ACLU and others write. “Smaller businesses spent a lot of money to comply with the new regulations. Before we even know how this new law is working, Proposition 24 rewrites it, forcing smaller businesses to absorb even more costs at a time that the economic shutdown has many businesses on the verge of closing their doors.”

Consumer Reports gave Proposition 24 a mixed review.

“In the short term, the CPRA could benefit consumers by closing up targeted advertising loopholes, strengthening enforcement and preventing the legislature from weakening the law,” Consumer Reports' policy analyst Maureen Mahoney wrote. “But its long-term impacts on privacy are less clear: The ballot initiative introduces new complexities and ambiguities that could well be exploited by companies.”

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