Soapbox

This is how Californians take back their privacy

An internet privacy bill failed to pass California’s Legislature this session, so advocates are pushing a measure for the November 2018 ballot.
An internet privacy bill failed to pass California’s Legislature this session, so advocates are pushing a measure for the November 2018 ballot. AP file

Last week on the final day of the legislative session, “business as usual” steamrolled a bill that would have strengthened consumer privacy.

Despite bipartisan support for Assembly Bill 375 and tremendous efforts by its author, Assemblyman Ed Chau, a Monterey Park Democrat, major corporations such as AT&T, Verizon and Comcast led last-minute efforts to kill it. They prevented it from coming to the Senate floor for a vote.

 
Opinion

Major corporations, including the ones that killed the privacy bill, are quietly collecting your personal, private data and then selling it to other companies you don’t even know exist. You must accept their terms, or you can’t use their services, which you need to live a modern life. These corporations hide behind dense privacy policies that protect their interests, not yours.

We live in the age of commercial surveillance. A term you searched for years ago, your psychological profile based on social media “likes,” or your music playlist can change the outcome of a job interview or the price you pay for goods. Big data has made us all open books. Companies are profiling us based on what we read, the toys and apps our children play with, the prescription drugs we take, and information gathered in our living rooms and bedrooms from connected devices.

“Business as usual” in Sacramento is why we have an initiative process – so that California voters can vote on important issues, no matter how powerful or deep-pocketed the opposition.

It’s time for Californians to take back control of their privacy. We believe you should have the right to know what information companies are collecting about you and your family. We believe you should have the right to tell companies not to sell that personal information.

This is why we submitted the California Consumer Privacy Act for the November 2018 ballot. The CCPA would give you the right to find out what personal information companies are collecting about you; to stop companies from selling your personal information; and prevent companies from discriminating against you on price or by denying service if you prohibit the sale of your personal information.

No doubt the same interest groups that lobbied so heavily last week will now work overtime and spend tens of millions of dollars to attack and distort the intent and consequences of this initiative. Even though I’m a father of small children who has made my career as a businessman, they’ll say the initiative would drive business out of California and would promote hackers or predators. It does none of that; as a father and entrepreneur, I have a strong interest in ensuring that California businesses continue to thrive.

Before the barrage of misinformation begins, we encourage consumers to read the text of the measure (available at caprivacy.org) and understand it for themselves. We know that when voters do, they will support it for the simple reason that it protects them and their families and gives them control over what happens to their own personal information.

Alastair Mactaggart is a lead sponsor of the California Consumer Privacy Act, a proposed 2018 ballot measure. He can be contacted at info@caprivacy.org.

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