California Consumer Privacy Act of 2018

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

By Bill Dodd

(Sonoma County Gazette, August 3, 2018)

At a time when the federal government is rolling back protections, we are moving forward here in California.

On so many fronts – from safeguarding the environment to helping undocumented immigrants – we lead the nation, setting standards for things like stewardship and human rights that we hope other states will follow.

Nowhere is that more apparent than in the landmark California Consumer Privacy Act of 2018. The bill, which I co-authored withAssemblymember Ed Chau andSenator Bob Hertzberg was recently signed into law, creating a bulwark against unscrupulous firms that troll the internet, collecting personal data they sell to other companies for profit.

Despite the vast amount of personal data companies compile, consumers have been largely unaware what data is taken and how it is used. It usually isn’t considered until the companies are hacked and it is too late. The 2017 Equifax breach, which exposed highly sensitive data of about 148 million Americans, wasn’t reported until months later.

At the same time, President Donald Trump was making good on campaign threats to scale back the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. The agency, which delivered billions in consumer relief under President Barack Obama, has initiated little or no new enforcement action since Trump took over. The president has said he does not want to unduly burden financial institutions. Similar rollbacks are going on in federal workplace and education agencies.

But consumer privacy is important. Having your identification and credit card information stolen can be devastating. I’ve been the victim of identity theft and it took me over a year to get it straightened out. When I realized how vulnerable we all are I decided to take action.

Earlier this year, I introduced a bill giving consumers much-needed recourse in the event of future breaches and creating strong incentives for companies to better safeguard data. Despite intense lobbying against it by special interests, it passed the Senate and advanced to the Assembly. When advocates for a new data protection ballot initiative collected enough signatures to put the item on the ballot, I joined forces with my two colleagues on a broader proposal, Assembly Bill 375, which satisfied the overarching goals of the initiative while saving taxpayers millions in election costs.

The new law, which had bipartisan support, was signed by Gov. Jerry Brown this summer. It’s built around three pillars:transparency, consumer control, and accountability.

In essence, it allows Californians to find out what information is collected about them on the internet and how it’s being used. Those who do not want their information to be shared can block that from happening. The bill also empowers consumers to hold companies liable if their carelessness leads to a data breach. It goes into effect on Jan. 1, 2020.

It’s the strongest consumer protection of its kind in the nation and provides safeguards we need in the 21st Century. Our state is continually pushing the envelope on technology, and we can protect individual privacy without stifling innovation. Californians deserve the right to choose how their information is used. And firms need to respect data privacy and act responsibly. My hope is other states will follow our lead.

Because Big Data is Big Business. It’s time we regulate it appropriately and hold bad actors accountable.

Senator Bill Dodd represents California’s 3rd Senate District, which includes all or portions of Napa, Solano, Sonoma, Yolo, Sacramento, and Contra Costa counties. You can learn more about Senator Dodd