Proposition 24, the Consumer Personal Information Law and Agency Initiative pretends to give consumers more protection over the sharing of private information, but it doesn’t.
The Electronic Frontier Foundation, a recognized advocate of privacy rights, said it best. Explaining why the organization declined to take a position on the November ballot initiation, the group wrote: “Some provisions of Prop. 24 are partial steps forward, so we don’t oppose the initiative outright. But we don’t support it either, because the forward steps are only partial, and must be weighed against the backward steps and missed opportunities.”
The Californian recommends a NO vote on Prop. 24. And we are not alone.
The diverse group of opponents already include two newspapers that seldom agree on anything – the conservative Orange County Register and the more moderate San Jose Mercury News. For more whiplash, consider the state Republican Party and the ACLU are joined in opposition, while the Democratic Party is neutral.
The Consumer Federation of California, Color of Change, California Small Business Coalition and Media Alliance oppose Prop. 24, while Consumer Reports is neutral, and Consumer Watchdog and Common Sense back it.
To say the 52-page proposition is mind-boggling to the average voter is an understatement. But to understand it, a bit of very recent history is needed.
In 2018, the Legislature passed and governor signed one of the nation’s toughest privacy laws, the California Consumer Privacy Act, or CCPA, which became effective in January. The law was so complicated and demanding on businesses that it took until August – just last month – for the rules to be finalized.
As voters now are asked to pass Prop. 24, businesses have not yet figured out how to comply with the 2018 law and consumers have not been given a chance to decide how effective it will be.
Clearly this is nuts. The 2018 law has its roots in an earlier initiative drive backed by Alastair Mactaggart. The real estate developer withdrew his initiative when the Legislature agreed to pass a law aiming to provide basically the same consumer protections.
The 2018 law requires certain businesses to tell consumers if they collect or sell personal information, and to notify them of their privacy rights. Consumers also can know what information has been collected and ask that it be deleted. Violations carry penalties of up to $7,500 if intentional, but it allows businesses to avoid penalties by addressing violations within 30 days.
Mactaggart now has returned to the privacy fight believing that a ballot initiative would lock in consumer protections that could not be easily weakened by the political whims of the Legislature.
What’s troubling is that Mactaggart wrote Prop. 24 in consultation with the tech industry, negotiating with such giants as Google and Facebook. That’s why the ACLU, among other groups, complains many of its provisions are favorable to big tech.
Some of these provisions include exemptions for “loyalty clubs,” such as supermarket cards that offer discounts in exchange for tracking purchases. It requires consumers to “opt out” of information sharing, rather than “opting in.” And those who do opt out may lose their discounts.
The balance of power between small tech companies and big tech is threatened by the elimination of the ability of businesses to “cure” a violation and avoid fines. Clearly a small company may not be able to afford defending itself against claims that would be “no big deal” to tech giants.
Prop. 24 also creates a new state regulatory agency led by political appointees charged with writing regulations to enforce controls on the use of consumer data by businesses. It would be empowered to conduct investigations and impose penalties. Critics fear this new agency would lack public accountability
Prop. 24 allows the Legislature to make changes to its requirements with a simple majority vote, but only “to improve its operation, provided that the amendments do not compromise or weaken consumer privacy, while giving attention to the impact on business and innovation.”
Huh? What does that even mean? Talk about vague.
California now has one of the toughest privacy laws in the nation. Let’s give it a chance to show what it can do. Prop. 24 is not needed. Vote NO.