By Quinci LeGardye, California Black Media
Two years after California lawmakers passed the first consumer data privacy act in the country, voters have a chance to expand the law or leave it as it is.
Proposition 24 on the November ballot would update the California Consumer Privacy Act to add new provisions and create an agency to enforce the laws.
California’s consumer data privacy laws were established by the California Consumer Privacy Act of 2018 (CCPA), which requires that large tech companies disclose the kind of data that they collect from people who use their apps and websites. It also allows users, referred to as consumers in the legislation’s language, to opt out of having their data sold to third parties, including advertisers.
If passed, Prop 24 would give consumers an opt-out option so businesses would not be able to use their sensitive personal information, such as their race, Social Security number or exact location, for advertising or marketing. It also requires businesses to obtain permission before collecting data from consumers who are younger than 16. For children younger than 13, businesses need permission from a parent or guardian to collect data.
The initiative would also establish the California Privacy Protection Agency (CPPA), which would enforce the consumer privacy laws. This new office would be separate from the California attorney general’s office, which currently handles privacy concerns, and the office would receive at least $10 million in funding annually.
The initiative would also triple fines for violations concerning customers under age 16.
Prop 24 was filed by San Francisco real estate developer Alaistair Mactaggart, who was a proponent of the CCPA in 2018. The measure is endorsed by the California NAACP, Consumer Watchdog, and former presidential candidate Andrew Yang.
Opponents of Prop 24 include the ACLU of California, Color of Change, League of Women Voters of California and Consumer Federation of California.
Those in favor of the law argue that consumer privacy laws need to be stronger, especially now that so much of life has been moved online due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Sean Dugar, social activist and Yes on Prop 24 supporter, spoke with California Black Media about the need for more data privacy to stop targeted ads and discrimination.
“You hear the horror stories every day. You hear about women who were at Planned Parenthood clinics being targeted by anti-abortion groups, kids who are logging into their classrooms being targeted by pornographic ads, folks who are on dating apps having their sexual preferences sold to the highest bidder. All that is happening now, in addition to legalized redlining and being able, as a financial institution or as a developer or real estate agent, to opt out of certain communities, especially Black folks, limiting people who see their properties and their services,” said Sean Dugar, social activist and Yes of Prop 24 supporter.
The Yes on Prop 24 campaign also issued a statement highlighting concerns regarding Black consumers’ data privacy, after recent reports found that the Trump campaign used sensitive personal information to suppress the African American vote in the 2016 presidential election. Prop 24 would stop businesses for compiling racial data.
“Everything you can imagine is online and available to be sold, or even worse hacked, about you. And so, we need not just strong laws, but an enforcement agency that will be able to ensure that our privacy and our data are protected, and that we as Black folks specifically are no longer targeted and no longer racially profiled online,” said Dugar.
Opponents of the ballot initiative argue that Prop 24 actually weakens consumer rights by including an Internet “pay for privacy” scheme, where those who don’t pay get inferior service and more pop-up ads. Also, they argue that Prop 24 would force consumers to notify each website and app they use individually to protect their data.
Opponents also emphasize that the ballot measure was written with input from giant tech corporations, and that the measure’s sponsor rejected input from privacy and consumer rights groups.
“No one reads the thousands of words of legal fine print that you have to accept before you can use an app or visit a website. The fine print is where you sacrifice your privacy. The same is true of Proposition 24. Its 52 pages are full of privacy reductions and giveaways to Facebook, social media platforms and big tech companies that misuse our personal information,” said Richard Holober, President of the Consumer Federation of California. “Advocacy groups that fight for the rights of Californians have read Prop 24’s fine print and that is why they oppose it.”