By BRIAN SCHRADER
This November will be monumental for Californians. Voters will be tasked with making decisions on a swath of ballot measures addressing a wide-range of issues from voting rights restoration and bail reform to changes in consumer privacy law and property tax assessments.
In one of the most important measures, Californians are being given the chance to improve our control over the data that businesses collect on us. California Proposition 24, also known as the Consumer Personal Information Law and Agency Initiative, builds on the recent victories won by the California Consumer Privacy Act in 2018. That bill, which went into effect in January of this year, was hailed as the most expansive consumer privacy law in the country and a win for consumers. Going beyond all of the praise and hype, it’s important to note what the bill actually did. It shed light on what kinds of data companies were collecting about us and who it was sold or disclosed to. It also allowed customers to request that their data be deleted and that companies not collect their data all without fear of discrimination. CCPA was both a landmark achievement and basic common sense. U.S. consumers are so starved for privacy protections that a few simple provisions are considered an incredible success.
This year, Californians have the opportunity to expand those protections, fill in the gaps left out of the CCPA and give the state government more capacity to enforce its provisions. Proposition 24 would allow customers to tell businesses not to share data about them. It would also allow customers to opt-out of having their sensitive personal information sold or used for advertising, and provide a host of additional protections for minors.
Perhaps most importantly, Proposition 24 would establish a new California Data Protection Agency which would take over administering and enforcing these provisions as well as those in the now active CCPA. This new Data Protection Agency would function similar to the FDA or other consumer watchdog agencies. Staffed by knowledgable experts in consumer protection and privacy law, it would be in charge of developing regulations, providing guidance to businesses, assessing penalties, and raising public awareness about the dangers of businesses abusing our data. The agency would protect the digital rights of all Californians and reign in the worst instincts of the corporate surveillance, ad tech, and data brokerage industries. Creating a separate agency also ensures that these issues are given the attention they deserve rather than languishing under other departments not staffed with technology experts who understand the nuances of privacy law and technology.
This measure marks an important step in California’s history as a role-model for the rest of the country. We have the chance to set the standard once again and proclaim our rights in this digital age. With time, other states and the federal government may well follow suit. As Governor Gavin Newsom likes to say, “so goes California, so goes the nation.”
We desperately need better privacy protections online. Our private data is vacuumed up from all corners of the internet, bought and sold with reckless abandon, and used to sell ads. I’m a web developer, so I understand what can be done with this technology and what’s being done today to abuse it. If you had said to a crowd in the early 1990s that within 30 years they’d be under constant, targeted domestic surveillance by companies looking to sell them skin cream and e-cigarettes, you’d have been laughed out of the room. But that’s exactly the world we live in today.
This November a whole host of elected offices in San Diego will be up for grabs. San Diegans will be asked to decide who our next president will be, who will represent us in the U.S. House of Representatives, in the California State Assembly, and who will be our next mayor. What’s more, Californians will be asked to vote on probably the most progressive slate of ballot measures in recent California history. With everything up in the air, it’s ok to feel overwhelmed, but we can’t let ourselves get distracted. We have a chance to further cement our rights, and we should take it.
— Brian Schrader is a local business owner, software developer, writer and San Diego resident living in Normal Heights.