from the listen-up dept
Last fall we wrote about the unfortunate situation happening with privacy laws in California. As you may know, California has a new privacy law that recently went into effect. And even though we’re big supporters of privacy here at Techdirt, we’ve noted that the CCPA law is and remains an unmitigated disaster. Much of that has to do with the way it came together. A wealthy real estate developer, Alastair Mactaggart, with little to no understanding of how the internet actually works, spent millions of dollars to get a “consumer privacy” ballot measure on the ballot in 2018. But it was incredibly dangerous and confused. Mactaggart, though, cut a deal: if the California legislation agreed to a privacy law, he would drop the ballot measure. So, the California legislature rushed through a very under-cooked privacy bill, that was written in just a couple of weeks, in order to get Mactaggart to drop his much, much worse ballot measure.
And that’s how we ended up with such a half-baked law. Except, last fall, Mactaggart decided to go back on his word, and said that even though the legislature pushed through the already problematic CCPA to get him to stop his ballot measure, he was going to push for another similar ballot on consumer privacy. For a little while, it looked like he might not get the ballot measure on the ballot, but he did, and now it will be up for a vote in November.
And here’s the thing: as with many ballot measures in California, most voters don’t understand the nuances and details of what they’re voting for, and your average voter, upon seeing a ballot measure that says it will “expand the state’s consumer privacy laws” is likely to vote yes, because that sounds good. Privacy is good, and so privacy laws sound good. But only if you don’t know what the initiative actually does: which would be a huge disaster for actual privacy.
We were actually a bit disappointed last time around that some of the civil society groups we normally support came out in strong support of the CCPA, but this time around, it looks like many are recognizing just how dangerous Mactaggart’s plan is for actual privacy. The various ACLU subsidiaries in California have now come out strongly against the ballot measure, known as Proposition 24, making the argument that it “benefits big tech and corporate interests, and will disproportionately harm vulnerable communities.” As the ACLU notes, the proposition would put the burden on individuals themselves to fill out forms to “protect their privacy.” As the ACLU’s Jake Snow says: “Proposition 24 isn’t privacy protection, it’s privacy paperwork.”
Also, there’s this:
And Prop 24 is full of loopholes and exceptions that are?how to put this delicately?real bad for privacy. Exceptions for the credit reporting industry, loopholes for big tech, no protection for workers, and new ways for the police to put a freeze on your rights.
— Jake Snow (@snowjake) July 22, 2020
This is the kind of proposition that someone like Mactaggart would love. It lets him pretend that he’s actually a champion of privacy, while actually helping some of the biggest businesses who regularly violate our privacy.
The ACLU announcement mentions a bunch of other civil society groups also coming out against Proposition 24 as well, including Public Citizen and Color of Change. That’s good to see and hopefully the message gets out there: this is no way to craft privacy legislation — especially considering that it’s coming from a rich dude who literally went back on his word mere months after promising to drop his ballot initiative in exchange for a poorly written law.