California Privacy Bill is a Victory for Consumers: Consumer Watchdog

California Privacy Bill
California Privacy Bill

LOS ANGELES: The 5-0 vote today by the California Senate’s Judiciary Committee to move a compromise privacy bill forward was a significant step toward ensuring Californian’s privacy, Consumer Watchdog said.

The bill, AB 375, may not be as strong as the California Consumer Privacy Act ballot initiative it is intended to replace, but for the first time gives consumers substantial control over their personal information and provides a right of private action for people to bring a suit if there is a data breach, the nonpartisan nonprofit public interest group said.

“The ballot initiative, which has enough signatures to be on the November ballot, provided the leverage to reach a compromise that offers meaningful privacy protections,” said John M. Simpson, Consumer Watchdog Privacy and Technology Project Director. “If the bill isn’t signed into law by Thursday, the initiative’s sponsors will move forward with their campaign and we will strongly support that effort.”

AB 375 would 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, Consumer Watchdog said. Additionally, the attorney general is expected to implement regulations that will protect consumers from predatory practices.

“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,” said Simpson. “AB 375 offers new meaningful privacy protections and is a big step forward.”