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Tuesday, April 16, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Consumer Privacy Initiative Sails to Victory in California

A ballot initiative meant to strengthen privacy protections for Californians passed handily with 56% of the vote Tuesday.

SAN FRANCISCO (CN) — A ballot initiative meant to strengthen privacy protections for Californians passed handily with 56% of the vote Tuesday.

San Francisco real estate developer Alastair Mactaggart proposed Proposition 24 to safeguard against efforts by business groups and tech industry efforts to weaken the existing California Consumer Privacy Act, passed in 2018 to give Californians more control over how companies collect and use their personal information.

Mactaggart was triumphant in a statement Wednesday morning. “With tonight’s historic passage of Prop 24, the California Privacy Rights Act, we are at the beginning of a journey that will profoundly shape the fabric of our society by redefining who is in control of our most personal information and putting consumers back in charge of their own data,” he said.

Onetime Democratic presidential candidate Andrew Yang, who chairs the board of advisers for the Yes on 24 effort, said the initiative’s passage heralds “a new era of consumer privacy rights.” 

“It will sweep the country and I’m grateful to Californians for setting a new higher standard for how our data is treated,” Yang said in a statement. 

Proposition 24 creates the California Privacy Protection Agency, a new bureaucracy tasked with defending privacy rights and prosecuting violators.

It also allows consumers to block businesses from sharing “sensitive personal information” about their race, religion, sexual orientation, precise location (within 1,850 feet), union membership, education level, health or work status. 

Businesses would still be able to collect that information, but consumers can choose to limit it only to what’s necessary to provide the requested service. It also changes a “Do not sell” provision in the current legislation to “Do not sell or share” — eliminating an insidious loophole businesses can currently exploit.

Businesses would also have to inform consumers about the information they collect and why. They would also be required to delete or correct the information on request and notify all third parties to delete such personal information “unless this proves impossible or involves disproportionate effort.

But the measure was not without its detractors among privacy advocates concerned that it concedes too much to business. The ACLU decried Proposition 24 as a monetization of what should be intrinsic rights, making them a luxury for those who can afford to opt-out of data collection.

“By forcing Californians to opt out and potentially pay for their privacy, it places the burden of privacy on the individual, a load those in working families and marginalized communities cannot bear,” technology and civil liberty attorneys Jacob Snow and Chris Conley wrote in a statement urging a no vote on the measure.

“Prop 24 is also full of loopholes that undermine consumer privacy, including a carveout written by the credit-reporting industry, weakened privacy protections for Californians when they travel, and new ways to keep consumers in the dark about what companies are doing with their personal information. For every step forward, there are two steps back. That approach won’t advance privacy in California.”

According to voter data provided by the California Secretary of State, Proposition 24 had fairly strong support among coastal counties, in Southern California, and parts of the Central Valley. 

All Bay Area counties voted in favor, with the exception of San Francisco where it failed by a slim margin, 48.9 % to 51.1%. It also failed in the Inland Empire and in most rural Northern California counties.

Follow @MariaDinzeo
Categories / Consumers, Politics, Technology

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