California warriors for privacy are back – and this time they want to fight to the polls

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The small group of politicians who forced the California legislature to rush into privacy law two years ago is back – and this time they want a vote.

Advocacy group Californians for Consumer Privacy, which launched the statewide data privacy law campaign, announced this week that it has the signatures it needs to get version 2.0 of its rules confidentiality on the US state ballot in November, and submitted its proposal to Sacramento.

This time, the goal is to tighten the rules that his previous voting measure managed to enforce, despite the determined efforts of internet giants like Google and Facebook to kill him. In exchange for the adoption of the legislation, this voting measure was abandoned. Now it seems that activists are fighting their vote after a people after all.

More importantly, the latest proposals call for the creation of an agency to protect and enforce the new rights and provide clear guidance to consumers and businesses. Currently, enforcement is the responsibility of the California Attorney General, and he said his office would begin enforcing current law in July.

Tech titans are already pushing hard on this date, claiming that the coronavirus health crisis means they should be donated until January 2021 – two and a half years after the privacy law was passed. California consumers – before they are forced to comply with the statute.

This push is just the latest effort by Silicon Valley mega-corps – which have vast databases of billions of people – to undermine legislation that gives Californians the right to see the data that companies hold on them and, critically, to request their removal and not sold to third parties. Californians are overwhelmingly in favor of greater privacy.

Zuck is not going to like this

The new proposal would add more rights, including the use and sale of sensitive personal information, such as health and financial information, racial or ethnic origin and precise geolocation. It would also triple existing fines for companies found to be in breach of data for children (under 16) rules, and would even require an option to even collect this data.

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The proposal would also give Californians the right to know when their information is used to make fundamental decisions about them, such as obtaining credit or job offers. And that would force political organizations to disclose when they use similar data for campaigns.

And just to push tech giants from fury to total merger, the new voting measure would require legislative changes to require a majority vote in the Legislative Assembly, effectively removing their vast lobbying powers and cutting the multitude in different ways in which the measures and its application can be watered down in the political process.

To access the California poll – where voters are allowed to vote on whether to approve measures proposed by groups outside of Sacramento politicians and legislators – you must obtain more than 620,000 signatures from residents. Californians for Consumer Privacy says it has over 900,000.

He also said in an announcement this week that in recent polls, 88% of California's 40 million voters would vote in favor of a measure that extends existing privacy protections.

The big question now is whether history repeats itself and whether the threat of a voting initiative is sufficient for legislators to promise additions to the existing law in exchange for withdrawing the ballot.

Flexible fudging

The last time the problem went straight to the point, the vote having been withdrawn hours before the deadline after Sacramento passed a new privacy law in record time. The argument was made that the adoption of the law through the traditional process offered more flexibility as it could be adjusted and amended later to suit the demands of the real world.

The indications are that the people behind Californians for Consumer Privacy – especially its chief Alastair Mactaggart, a real estate developer – will not be ready to accept this compromise this time.

In a letter he published in September, Mactaggart noted that “some of the world's largest companies have actively and explicitly prioritized the weakening of ACCP” – something they did during the review process in Sacramento.

The proposal to create a new agency – and therefore remove the politically flexible attorney general – as well as block the amendments, all indicate that Mactaggart intends to complete it on the ballot.

As such, we confidently anticipate a massive campaign funded by tech companies against the voting measure and possibly a second clouding voting measure that is promoted as a better alternative but offers no additional protection.

California is about to wage what could be a historic battle for data privacy and the control of tech giants over our personal information. Take your popcorn. ®

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