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Consumer Watchdog Backs California Privacy Bill Compromise, AB 375

Mon, 06/25/2018 - 14:52

Privacy is a right enshrined in the California Constitution.  The only problem is that there are few laws and regulations in place to actually protect our privacy, particularly when it involves the use of our personal information online.

The California Consumer Privacy Act, a proposed ballot initiative that has received more than enough signatures to qualify it for the November ballot, would enact key privacy protections.  Ballot initiative campaigns cost tens of millions of dollars for both opponents and proponents.

That’s one reason there is a big incentive to reach a compromise and pass a law covering the same issues through the Legislature.  It’s also easier to amend something the Legislature has done, if things need to be tweaked in the future.

That’s what’s happened to the California Consumer Privacy Act ballot initiative.  Its sponsors have reached a compromise agreement to use AB 375 authored by Assemblymember Ed Chau and Senator Robert Hertzberg to enact meaningful privacy protections. In order for the bill to replace the initiative, it must be passed and signed into law by Thursday.

If the initiative ends up on the ballot, Consumer Watchdog will work for its passage.  Now, however, we support the AB 375 compromise. Read our letter of support here: http://www.consumerwatchdog.org/sites/default/files/2018-06/LTrAB375support062518.pdf

AB 375 doesn’t do everything the initiative would have done.  However, it does make significant improvements from current law.  It would, for instance allow a private right of action – though with some limits -- in data breach cases.  No such right currently exists. The bill, written to replace the initiative, would ensure:

  • The right of Californians to know what personal information is being collected about them. 
  • The right of Californians to know whether their personal information is sold or disclosed and to whom. 
  • The right of Californians to say no to the sale of personal information.
  • The right of Californians to access their personal information. 
  • The right of Californians to equal service and price, even if they exercise their privacy rights.

The bill provides business can’t deny service because you won’t allow information to be sold. They could charge more, but any such charge cannot be: “unjust, unreasonable, coercive or usurious.”  Also, the difference in price or service must be “directly related to the value provided to the consumer by the consumer’s data.” 

Currently there are no protections that would ensure service if you refuse to have your data sold. Under AB 375, if a charge is levied, it will make the practice transparent so consumers understand what is at stake. Additionally, we expect the attorney general to implement regulations that will protect consumers from predatory practices.

AB 375 is not perfect but is a substantial enough step forward for privacy protection in California that Consumer Watchdog supports the bill.