California’s new online privacy law takes effect on New Year’s Day, giving consumers basic protections they deserve.
Privacy matters. It’s critical that Californians take advantage of what is the toughest privacy rights law in the nation.
Failure to do so threatens the right to live our lives without undue interference from businesses or the government. It also signals to tech companies that no one cares if they continue their increasingly Big Brother tactic of collecting information on where we go, what we buy, who we associate with and what political opinions we hold.
The bill, authored by Assemblyman Ed Chau, D-Arcadia, would:
• Give internet users control over their personal information by requiring providers to obtain “opt-in” consent before they can use, disclose, sell or allow others access to customer’s personal information.
• Require that broadband providers maintain reasonable security protection so information can’t be collected by a third party.
• Give users the right to compel companies to delete private data that they collected on individuals.
• Prohibit companies from selling data about children under the age of 13 without a parent’s consent.
The bill isn’t perfect. It puts the onus on individual users to act to protect their data, many of whom accept online companies’ terms of agreement without reading a word of the document. Consumers will have to notify each individual company they access in order to protect their privacy. Consumers in most cases will not have the ability to sue companies that fail to comply, leaving that at the discretion of the California Attorney General. Small businesses are also complaining that the definition of personal information is so broad that it may hurt their customer loyalty programs.
Some tweaks may be in order. But the current law is long overdue and will give consumers needed control over their data. A 2019 survey by the Pew Research Center found that 79 percent of adults are concerned about the way their data is used by companies. And 81 percent say that the potential risks they face because of data collection by companies outweigh the benefits.
We hope California’s law will serve as a model for other states and ultimately force Congress to pass federal legislation.
Bay Area Rep. Ro Khanna, D-Santa Clara, is working on a comprehensive, bipartisan Internet Bill of Rights. The legislation has drawn the support of tech luminaries such as World Wide Web inventor Tim Berners-Lee and Apple CEO Tim Cook.
Khanna’s bill is designed to walk the tightrope of protecting consumer rights without damaging innovation and our competitive edge against countries such as China. But the odds of it passing the House and Senate are long, leaving the United States with the dubious distinction as the only Western nation without fundamental online protections.
California’s new online privacy law fills that void. Internet users should take full advantage of the opportunity to regain control of how their private data is handled.