California consumers shouldn't have to reveal any more personal information than absolutely necessary, whether they're shopping at a mall or at their computers.
That means the Legislature ought to debate whether to update the state's consumer protection law for credit card purchases to cover the billions of dollars of online purchases. The state Supreme Court basically beckoned lawmakers to do so in its 4-3 decision Monday in a lawsuit brought by an Apple customer who didn't want to divulge his home address and phone number to download music.
The majority of justices ruled that the Song-Beverly Credit Card Act which bars "brick-and-mortar" retailers from demanding such information does not extend to online transactions. The justices agreed with e-retailers that argued they require personal data to fight fraud and identity theft. Unlike traditional retailers, they are unable to require photo identification, Justice Goodwin Liu wrote for the majority.
Indeed, Liu asserted, the law enacted more than two decades ago before Amazon and iTunes became ubiquitous did not envision online transactions. "In 1990, the idea of computerized transactions involving the sale and purchase of virtual products was beyond any legislator's imagination," he wrote. "Such technology was not even a twinkle in Steve Jobs' eye."
The three dissenting justices, however, cautioned that the ruling further erodes privacy protections and frees retailers to sell personal information to other companies. The justices noted that other forms of remote purchases such as mail and telephone orders did exist when the law was passed. Civil liberties and consumer advocacy groups argue that online merchants can prevent fraud without collecting so much personal data.
There needs to be the right balance between protecting merchants from losing money to fraud and shielding shoppers from unnecessary intrusions into their privacy.
As usual, there are a lot of inconsequential bills being bandied about the Capitol this session. Here's an issue worth the Legislature's time, where it can do some real good.
© Copyright The Sacramento Bee. All rights reserved.
Read more articles by the Editorial Board
What You Should Know About Comments on Sacbee.com
Sacbee.com is happy to provide a forum for reader interaction, discussion, feedback and reaction to our stories. However, we reserve the right to delete inappropriate comments or ban users who can't play nice. (See our full terms of service here.)
Here are some rules of the road:
Keep your comments civil. Don't insult one another or the subjects of our articles. If you think a comment violates our guidelines click the "Report Abuse" link to notify the moderators. Responding to the comment will only encourage bad behavior.
Don't use profanities, vulgarities or hate speech. This is a general interest news site. Sometimes, there are children present. Don't say anything in a way you wouldn't want your own child to hear.
Do not attack other users; focus your comments on issues, not individuals.
Stay on topic. Only post comments relevant to the article at hand.
Do not copy and paste outside material into the comment box.
Don't repeat the same comment over and over. We heard you the first time.
Do not use the commenting system for advertising. That's spam and it isn't allowed.
Don't use all capital letters. That's akin to yelling and not appreciated by the audience.
Don't flag other users' comments just because you don't agree with their point of view. Please only flag comments that violate these guidelines.
You should also know that The Sacramento Bee does not screen comments before they are posted. You are more likely to see inappropriate comments before our staff does, so we ask that you click the "Report Abuse" link to submit those comments for moderator review. You also may notify us via email at email@example.com. Note the headline on which the comment is made and tell us the profile name of the user who made the comment. Remember, comment moderation is subjective. You may find some material objectionable that we won't and vice versa.
If you submit a comment, the user name of your account will appear along with it. Users cannot remove their own comments once they have submitted them.