Rich Dude Goes Back On His Promise About Forcing California Into A Dreadfully Bad Privacy Law, Brings A Worse Version Back

from the this-is-not-how-law-making-should-be-done dept

California is inching ever closer to having its very problematic privacy law take effect. As we've noted, while good privacy legislation would be desirable, this is not it. Indeed, this law is woefully undercooked by design. If you don't remember, the process by which we got here dictated terrible results. A wealthy real estate developer, Alastair Mactaggart, decided that he was going to "fix" internet privacy, by putting a truly bad proposal regarding internet privacy to a public vote, using California's somewhat horrific public referendum system -- that allows for the public to effectively modify California's constitution by popular vote.

While, in theory, this could be an example of popular democracy at work, in practice, the California referendum system has been a way for ultra-wealthy people, with too much time and money on their hands, to push through pet projects -- often either misrepresenting the nuances to the public, or perhaps not understanding them themselves -- and then locking California into the results. Recognizing just what an unmitigated disaster Mactaggart's referendum would have been for an open internet, a deal was cut: if California's legislature rushed through a privacy bill in two weeks, Mactaggart would drop the referendum from the ballot. And that lead to the woefully undercooked CCPA (California Consumer Privacy Act) law, which was at least marginally better than Mactaggart's nonsense proposal.

But, here's the thing, after agreeing to pull that referendum from the ballot, Mactaggart has now announced that he's bringing it back for the next ballot. Really.

The activist who spurred California to adopt the country’s first-ever consumer privacy law is readying for another battle: a new ballot initiative that would be even tougher on tech giants and other big businesses that collect people’s personal information.

The proposal, unveiled late Tuesday, is the brainchild of Alastair Mactaggart, a real estate developer whose efforts beginning two years ago resulted in the California Consumer Privacy Act, or CCPA. Building on that success, Mactaggart has set his sights on the 2020 election, hoping that local voters will enact reforms targeting the way companies harness data to make decisions or serve ads.

But, remember, the whole point of forcing through the undercooked CCPA was to get Mactaggart to back off his stupid referendum, but now it's back, meaning that there's just going to be more nonsense and fighting, to stop a ballot measure from a guy who has no clue what his proposal would actually do to the internet. And, because California's ballot measures are playthings for rich people, Mactaggart will likely get his way:

Mactaggart spent $3.1 million of his own money to gather signatures for his first privacy measure in 2018 and said he’s prepared to spend the same, or more, on this effort. He has said he came to the issue somewhat by accident after having a cocktail party conversation with a Silicon Valley technology engineer that left him startled when he learned about the kinds of information routinely being gathered, sold and bought by companies with relatively low public profiles.

Furthermore, he says he won't even back off this time:

One week before the 2018 deadline to certify the list of statewide propositions, Mactaggart and Democratic legislative leaders announced a compromise that was quickly signed by then-Gov. Jerry Brown.

Mactaggart doubted that he would do the same this time around.

“I don’t think any substantial gains like this are made in the Legislature,” he said. “I’m really happy what I did [in 2018]. It got us a beachhead. But I like the idea of having a new high-water mark that can’t be undone.”

So let's be clear: even if you agree with Mactaggart's position 100% and believe that his ballot initiative is good for personal privacy (which it is not), this is a horrible way to go about making privacy law. This is a rich guy, randomly throwing money at an issue that will get plenty of attention with almost no nuance or understanding, and setting levels that are nearly impossible to change, which will create all sorts of problems. It's not how policy should be made, no matter how you feel about privacy laws.

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Filed Under: alastair mactaggart, california, policy making, privacy, referendum


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  1. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 28 Sep 2019 @ 7:57am

    This is a rich guy, randomly throwing money at an issue that will get plenty of attention with almost no nuance or understanding, and setting levels that are nearly impossible to change, which will create all sorts of problems. It's not how policy should be made, no matter how you feel about privacy laws.

    There is a lot of hyperbole in this article and to be fair this is how democracy works. Up to the state level, at least, anyone can get a bill onto the ballot. Yeah, those with too much money have an easier time with this but your neighbor can fire up a grass roots effort to put a new law on the books, too. Without this we have a purely representative government and it's pretty fucking clear our representatives don't represent us, only those who source their funds.

    Also, it would have been nice to have some kind of explanation, anything really, of what makes his proposed bill bad instead of all the name calling, assertions without citation and lack of details.


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