LOS ANGELES, CA — What could make political bedfellows of the California Republican Party, the ACLU, the Council on Islamic American Relations and the Medial Alliance? That would be Proposition 24, which has united disparate groups in opposition. At the same time, the proposition, which seeks to expand consumer privacy laws, has divided the very consumer advocates that championed the state’s existing data privacy laws.
So just what does Proposition 24 do?
Prop 24 would allow consumers to prevent businesses from sharing their personal information, establish a California Privacy Protection Agency to enforce consumer privacy laws, prohibit businesses from retaining customers’ personal information for longer than necessary, increase fines for misusing the personal information of children, and establish penalties for consumer login theft.
Supporters contend the measure strengthens the state’s existing consumer privacy laws and serves as a national model for consumer data protection. Opponents contend that it contains too many concessions to Big Tech, providing consumers with a false sense of data security, while actually undermining it. The measure would allow companies to access Californians’ personal data from their devices as soon as they leave the state.
One of the biggest criticisms of the law is that it puts the onus on consumers to ask companies not to use and sell their data. Opponents want companies and websites to have to ask users for permission to sell their personal data.
“Overall, it’s a step backward,” Jacob Snow, an attorney who specializes in tech policy for the ACLU, told CalMatters. “It would undermine privacy protections for Californians.”
Snow also objects to the way in which the existing law allows companies to charge customers more if they don’t allow their personal data to be used. Proposition 24 would make it worse, he said, by allowing companies to use loyalty programs to induce people to permit their personal data to be used.
“That has disproportionate effects on communities in California who are already vulnerable, like Black and Latinx families and elderly people,” Snow told CalMatters. “And those are the people who should be at the center of our thought process, and our concern when we are writing privacy laws.”
“The real winners with Proposition 24 are the biggest social media platforms, giant tech companies and credit reporting corporations who get more freedom to invade the privacy of workers and consumers, and to continue sharing your credit data. Here’s what they won’t tell you about the 52 pages of fine print: Proposition 24 asks you to approve an Internet ‘pay for privacy’ scheme,” the official ballot measure argument against reads. “Those who don’t pay more could get inferior service—bad connections, slower downloads and more pop up ads. It’s an electronic version of freeway express lanes for the wealthy and traffic jams for everyone else.”
The measure’s supporters include Consumer Watchdog, California NAACP State Conference, State Senator Robert Hertzberg and former Democratic presidential candidate Andrew Yang.
Yang said the ‘pay for privacy’ aspect of the measure would actually empower consumers.
“Californians could get paid for their data from businesses they like and at the same time, get privacy from those they do not,” he wrote in the San Francisco Chronicle.
The measure strengthens one of the most forceful consumer privacy laws in the nation, contend Prop 24 supporters.
“Under Prop 24, a consumer can limit the use of their sensitive information to stop Uber from profiling them based on race, stop Spotify from utilizing their precise geo-location and prevent Facebook from using their sexual orientation, health status or religion in its algorithms,” Consumer Watchdog’s Executive Director Carmen Balber said in endorsing the measure. “In addition, Californians won’t have to worry about the legislature repealing key privacy rights, will have stronger rights to personally enforce privacy laws and will have the protection of a well-staffed and funded European-style privacy commission to protect their rights.”
The bulk of the spending for this measure — more than $5 million — has come from the Yes on 24 campaign, which is entirely funded by Bay Area real estate developer Alastair Mactaggart.