New York's Sweeping Privacy Bill Moves Forward In Senate

An opt-in New York privacy bill advanced again on Monday in the state Senate, where it could soon be up for a vote.

The bill (SB 6701), introduced by state Senator Kevin Thomas, would require companies to obtain explicit permission from consumers before processing their data for ad targeting, and would allow consumers to bring class-action lawsuits over violations.

The Association of National Advertisers, which opposes the bill, contends that an opt-in requirement “will create 'consent fatigue' among consumers.”

The measure drew support this week from advocacy group Consumer Reports.

“Unlike other industry-supported bills that have been introduced this year, this bill protects consumers’ privacy by default -- so that they don’t have to hunt for opt-out links at hundreds if not thousands of different websites,” Consumer Reports senior policy analyst Maureen Mahoney stated on Monday. “It also has strong teeth so that companies can’t skirt the law.”

Among other provisions, the bill would prohibit companies from using pre-checked boxes -- or other default settings -- to obtain consumers' consent to data processing.

Another clause would require companies to honor decisions regarding data that consumers make via global controls, such as commands that can be sent automatically through browsers.

Last week, the Association of National Advertisers, American Association of Advertising Agencies, Interactive Advertising Bureau, Network Advertising Initiative and American Advertising Federation said in a letter to lawmakers that the state should study “the many practical and beneficial uses of data about consumers,” as well as other states' privacy laws, before moving forward with the bill.

The ad groups raised numerous concerns, including that the bill will result in consumers being “inundated with constant requests for their consent to carry out the most routine, essential, and expected data processing activities.”

The organizations also that allowing consumers to sue companies that violate the law “will flood New York’s courts with frivolous lawsuits driven by opportunistic trial lawyers searching for technical violations, rather than focusing on actual consumer harm.”

New York lawmakers will go out of session on June 10, and it's not yet clear whether the bill will pass by that date.

Thomas says that should the bill fail this year, he plans to reintroduce it in the future.

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