By THE SACRAMENTO BEE EDITORIAL BOARD

October 15, 2020

https://www.sacbee.com/article246477815.html

Proposition 24, also known as the California Privacy Rights Act, would strengthen California’s landmark digital privacy law. Alastair Mactaggart, the real estate developer and privacy activist whose efforts resulted in 2018’s California Consumer Privacy Act, is bankrolling the ballot measure.

McTaggart said the new law is necessary to prevent special interests from using the California State Legislature to poke holes in the CCPA. He said Prop. 24 would lock in the law’s protections, allowing legislators to make only changes that strengthen, rather than weaken, the privacy law.

It seems like a no brainer, but Prop. 24 has strong opposition from other privacy activists who say it doesn’t go far enough to restrict tech companies. If McTaggart had listened to such criticisms in 2018, however, the CCPA would never have passed and Californians would not now enjoy some of the strongest digital privacy laws outside of Europe.

Prop. 24 will require tech companies to refrain from sharing a consumer’s data if it receives a request from the consumer. It will strengthen the state’s law requiring companies to provide an opt-out for people who don’t want those companies to share their sensitive personal information with marketers or advertisers. It would also protect kids by requiring tech companies to seek permission from an adult before harvesting data from children under the age of 13.

Prop. 24 will also create a new state agency to enforce the state’s digital privacy laws, at a cost of approximately $10 million a year. Given the increasingly central role digital devices and apps play in our lives in the 21st century, it’s surprising that such an agency doesn’t already exist. There’s also a cost to businesses, which must spend extra money and time to ensure they comply with the 2018 law to protect the privacy of Californians.

Opponents of the measure claim it will weaken the CCPA, but we don’t buy it. Mactaggart is clearly dedicating his time and money to strengthening California’s privacy laws. Why he would push a strong law through the Legislature and then seek to undo it two years later? 

While there are some valid criticisms of Prop. 24, there’s no question that it would strengthen privacy laws. Supporters of Prop. 24 include Common Sense, Consumer Watchdog and state Sen. Bob Hertzberg, D-Van Nuys, who helped negotiate the CCPA in 2018. Opponents include the Republican Party of California, the California Nurses Association and United Farm Workers co-founder Dolores Huerta.

The Electric Frontier Foundation, a leading online rights group, has declined to take a position on the measure.

“Prop 24 does not do enough to advance the data privacy of California consumers,” wrote EFF in a statement posted to its website. “It is a mixed bag of partial steps backwards and forwards. It includes some but not most of the strengthening amendments urged by privacy advocates.”

Digital privacy is a complex issue. Prop. 24 won’t be the last word. We encourage all skeptical voters to review the ballot arguments carefully before deciding. But Prop. 24 is a step forward for digital privacy protections.

The Sacramento Bee Editorial Board recommends a yes vote on Prop. 24.