California voters pass ballot measure over data privacy regulation

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A controversial California ballot measure regarding data privacy appears to have been passed by voters in Tuesday’s election, and it is likely to have a national impact by regulating how tech giants based in The Golden State must operate. 

Proposition 24, known as the California Privacy Rights Act of 2020, seeks to amend and expand on provisions of the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) that was passed in 2018. The proposition would establish a California Privacy Protection Agency with the power to enforce CCPA, and changes would go into effect in 2023. 

With 99 percent of precincts partially reporting, the ballot measure was approved by a margin of 56.1 percentage points to 43.9 percentage points, according to state data

The ballot measure would require businesses to not share a consumer’s personal information upon the consumer’s request and provide an opt-out option for consumers to request their personal information not be used or disclosed for advertising or marketing. 

The ballot measure also limits businesses’ ability to obtain information of minors, requiring businesses obtain permission before collecting data from consumers who are younger than 16 and obtain permission from a parent or guardian before collecting data from consumers who are younger than 13. 

It would also require businesses to correct a consumer’s inaccurate personal information upon the consumer’s request. 

The ballot measure excludes businesses that made less than $25 million in revenue in the year before, or collect data from fewer than 100,000 consumers. 

The campaign pushing in favor of the proposition claimed victory on Wednesday morning. 

“With tonight’s historic passage of Prop 24, the California Privacy Rights Act, we are at the beginning of a journey that will profoundly shape the fabric of our society by redefining who is in control of our most personal information and putting consumers back in charge of their own data,” Alastair Mactaggart, chairman of Californians for Consumer Privacy and the Prop 24 sponsor, said in a statement

“I’m looking forward to the work ahead and the next steps in implementing this law, including setting up a commission that is dedicated to protecting consumers online,” Mactaggart added. 

The No on 24 campaign said it will “continue the fight” and commended the work its supporters did to fight back on the campaign in support of the ballot measure. 

“It is a testament to our amazing coalition of small businesses, consumer and social justice advocates and the voters of California that our campaign whittled down Prop 24’s 70-point lead in their July poll to only 12 points on the morning after Election Day and forced the proponent to spend even more of his money on paid media in the last few weeks,” No on 24 campaign chairperson Mary Ross and campaign strategist Marva Diaz said in a joint statement. 

“While we came up short, millions of California voters still realized now is not the time to pass a measure riddled with serious flaws that creates a costly new privacy bureaucracy.  We’re grateful to them and our supporters and will continue the fight,” they added.  

Proponents of the ballot measure touted it as a necessary upgrade to the existing law, arguing it closed loopholes to better protect users’ privacy. The Yes on 24 campaign said the proposition would better safeguard children’s privacy, better protect personal data from the risk of identity theft and create new rights to stop businesses from using sensitive personal information. 

Former Democratic presidential nominee and tech entrepreneur Andrew Yang, a big proponent of the ballot measure, hailed the victory on Wednesday. 

“I look forward to ushering in a new era of consumer privacy rights with passage of Prop 24, the California Privacy Rights Act,” Yang, who is also the chairman of the board of advisors for Californians for Consumer Privacy, said in the Yes on 24 announcement. 

“It will sweep the country and I’m grateful to Californians for setting a new higher standard for how our data is treated,” Yang added. 

Opponents of the ballot measure, including the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), argued that the bill would not strengthen the state’s existing privacy protections. Rather, it would “undermine protections in current law and increase the burden on people to protect themselves,” the ACLU wrote in a blog post last month. The ACLU said the burden would disproportionately harm poor people and people of color. 

“Black and immigrant communities need strong privacy rights to protect themselves from corporate discrimination as well as state violence. But Prop 24 threatens to make privacy a luxury available only for the most privileged Californians,” the ACLU wrote. “By forcing Californians to opt-out and potentially pay for their privacy, it places the burden of privacy on the individual, a load those in working families and marginalized communities cannot bear.”

The California NAACP, though, backed the ballot measure. Alice Huffman, president of California NAACP, said in a statement last week, “the proposition allows consumers to stop companies from using online racial profiling to discriminate against them.”

The ballot measure would not prohibit a business from offering premium features that would allow financial incentives for consumers in return for collecting, selling, sharing or retaining personal information. 

The Electronic Frontier Foundation, a nonprofit organization which advocates for digital civil rights, said the “pay-for-privacy schemes” would “unjustly lead to a society of privacy ‘haves’ and ‘have-nots.’” The organization, however, called the ballot measure a “mixed bag of partial steps backwards and forwards” and said it neither supported or opposed the proposition.

Tags Andrew Yang California California Consumer Privacy Act Data privacy Internet privacy Online Privacy Protection Act

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