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Consumer Watchdog Counters Tech Lobby Attacks In Comments to Attorney General on California’s Landmark Privacy Act

Mon, 03/11/2019 - 22:23
Attorney General Becerra Photo

Sacramento—After last year’s passage of the landmark California Consumer Privacy Act, big tech companies including Google, Facebook, and the Chamber of Commerce are spending big on lobbying in Sacramento and Washington D.C. to weaken the law.  Clearly these companies enjoy their ability to spy on us and sell our information freely without any laws or regulations that would empower consumers to take control of their data. 

The CCPA gives us the right to find out what data big business is retaining and selling about us, and to “opt-out” and have that data deleted. The historic law is slated to take effect on January 1, 2020 and follows the passage of the European Union’s GDPR, which requires a company to get permission before it can sell a person’s data.

The CCPA was passed unanimously after a deal was struck between privacy advocates led by Alastair MacTaggart and key legislators led by Senator Bob Hertzberg. MacTaggart had collected over 600,000 signatures to qualify a privacy measure for the California ballot, but pulled it one the state legislature and Governor passed and signed the CCPA. 

On Friday, Consumer Watchdog submitted comments to Attorney General Xavier Becerra who is charged with developing rules to implement the law. Consumer Watchdog is urging Becerra to require companies to make it easy for consumers to opt-out and to not coerce people into selling their data with penalties or phony incentives. Consumer Watchdog’s comments urge Becerra to deny loopholes sought by big tech that would limit our ability to retrieve only “sensitive” data or exclude IP addresses, which are easily linked to a person or household. 

Big tech companies and advertising firms are unloading slick lobbyists to claim that such rules would cause deep harm to their businesses. This is total nonsense as many these companies have already adopted to the EU’s new rules and some are actually seeing their profits increase. Their latest bogus talking point is that the CCPA would kill frequent flyer programs, even though the law explicitly protects such programs in writing. 

Apparently big tech is willing to say anything to keep us from getting control of your personal data, which includes sensitive health and financial information. 

Last week’s Judiciary committee hearing, chaired by Senator Hannah Beth Jackson, witnessed the CEO of DuckDuckGo, a search engine that does not track its users, testify that his company makes money through advertising without tracking and creating creepy profiles on every user. He testified that Google used to do this as well, and that other companies have reverted back to this model in complying with the EU’s privacy requirements. In other words, we can have technological innovation and convenience without selling off our privacy. 

To ensure that companies comply with the law, Consumer Watchdog supports legislation introduced by Senator Jackson and the Attorney General to empower consumers to sue companies if they unlawfully sell our data.  Stay tuned as the battle heats up this spring and summer over whether our constitutional right to privacy will be protected or perverted by big tech companies. In the meanwhile, let your legislators know that you support the CCPA and oppose any efforts to weaken the bill.