Digital privacy is once again in the crosshairs of the unholy alliance between Big Data and government and Proposition 24, the Personal Information Law and Agency Initiative of 2020, would do little to address it.
Alastair Mactaggart, the San Francisco real estate developer who filed the initiative, argues that Prop. 24 would advance privacy rights. Other proponents concede that it is not ideal, but say the initiative would improve online privacy. Despite their optimistic views, the massive 52-page ballot measure would not improve digital privacy. Instead, it would create huge exemptions and a new state bureaucracy.
Few states protect individual privacy better than California. California is in the minority of states which constitutionally guarantee an explicit right of privacy. When it comes to municipal surveillance and other high-tech privacy issues, California again leads the nation in crafting policies on such issues as cell phone surveillance and facial recognition.
California became one of the first states to adopt a consumer privacy protection law with the California Consumer Privacy Act of 2018. But the CCPA was a poor attempt. It imposed overbroad requirements on companies and contained vague language on what information is allowed to be collected from consumers, with little beneficial impact on digital privacy. One of the few positive features of the CCPA is that the information collected from consumers must be disclosed and consumers can request companies to delete their data. This borrows heavily from the right to be forgotten principle enshrined in the European Unions General Data Protection Regulation.
The CCPA did not go into effect until this year, but immediately many people viewed it as window dressing. In the wake of CCPAs passage, State Senate Majority Leader Bob Hertzberg, D-Van Nuys, was already advocating for a ballot initiative to amend the CCPA. But Prop. 24 is not the answer. It would leave Californians in a worse position.
Prop. 24 would create huge exceptions for key classes of sensitive information. Real consumer privacy should protect consumers from companies handing off their personal data to the government. But Prop. 24 adds an additional 90 days, for a total of 180 days, for law enforcement agencies to direct businesses to retain collected data for investigative purposes, prior to obtaining a warrant or subpoena.
A California State Auditor report recommended that sensitive information be subject to stricter retention policies, noting that the California Highway Patrol is required to clear information like license plate numbers after 60 days. Prolonged data retention periods are associated with serious civil liberties concerns, including chilling First Amendment activities.
Prop. 24 also creates exemptions for certain consumer data requirements, including vehicle ownership information shared by dealers and manufacturers, credit standing, personal job application information, emergency contact information, and students grades and educational scores held for education agencies.
The measure also weakens the right to be forgotten feature of the CCPA. Sec. 125(d)(2) expands a companys reasons for refusal to include its own security and integrity, while Sec. 105(c)(1) limits a firms responsibility to relay deletion requests to the third parties with whom it shared consumers data.
To enforce these provisions, the ballot initiative would create the California Privacy Protection Agency, a $10 million per year state agency to oversee compliance. While there is currently a bottleneck associated with the California Attorney Generals Office enforcing the CCPA, Prop. 24 should have instead created a private right of action, allowing people to sue businesses that mishandle their data, as proposed in the federal Consumer Online Privacy Rights Act.Until these issuesand other problemsare fixed, the CCPA and Prop. 24 are half-measures that reinforce the collusion between Big Data and government agencies to exploit peoples personal information, leaving the civil liberties of individuals in jeopardy.
Bureaucratic hurdles for businesses are not a substitute for proper data collection standards. We need do not track browser features for consumers, opt-in standards that require consumers to consent to data collection, stronger biometric privacy for sensitive information like DNA, and a private right of action against bad actors.
Proposition 24 falls well short of these needed reforms. It is more paperwork and bureaucracy, not true privacy protection for Californians.