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Proposition 24


Matthew Donovan & Shruti Kumar

Proposition 24 is an odd predicament where people who want the same thing believe the proposition would cause different outcomes. In short, the proponents of prop 24 want new regulations to further the CCPA’s limits, while those who oppose believe a more protective and well-planned bill is necessary without so many loopholes.

Prop 24 is essentially a lateral move on the issue of data protection. In theory consumers would have some increased power over companies’ usage or distribution of sensitive personal information including location data, health information, or private communications. Prop 24 would also create a state agency to enforce these rules and issue fines to companies that break privacy laws. Privacy advocates say that such an agency wouldn’t give consumers enough power or a path to deal with individual privacy issues by themselves, making such an agency fall short.

However, Prop 24 allows for an increase of pay for privacy schemes, notably exempting loyalty clubs from the CCPA’s limit on businesses charging different prices for consumers wanting increased privacy. Privacy protection should be the default, it’s disheartening to see Prop 24 miss the mark, and for that reason, we say vote no.

We’re in a pandemic. We’re isolated. Our screen time has increased to stay connected— and the digital landscape is a tricky beast. Our privacy now feels eternal, when in fact, our projected lives are everywhere in an effort to remain active and productive. Our digital devices, social media, and tech tools have served us to organize, learn, and educate —but we are now more aware of its side effects. Digital privacy has been quite an elevated issue for a while but seemed to reach a watershed moment after Facebook’s Cambridge Analytica scandal and the release of the documentary The Social Dilemma. No matter how you decipher this documentary or this public event, it’s clear data policy is only going to become more important. We should also be more aware of the communities the virtual spheres / conversations we are in do not include. As we navigate pros and cons of the online terrain, we must also keep the notion of accessibility at the forefront of the agenda. The benefits of our technology persevere so long as they are representative of all. The protections from the abuse of digital data are only fair if they also consider those left out, ensuring we are not only creating safe online space, but also proceeding without creating a paywall in front of digital privacy, leaving those “outside the bubble” more vulnerable to digital exploitation and an increased information gap.

Some background on this proposition might help give some clarity, such as the man behind putting the the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) is now behind proposition 24 in hopes of providing even more digital protections for Californians by creating the California Privacy Protection Agency. One of the main issues with the CCPA is that big tech companies aka FANG (Facebook, Apple, Netflix, and Google) all found ways around not being legally able to sell data. Prop 24 attempts to solve this issue but it didn’t get the type of backing by privacy and consumer advocacy groups one would expect legislation. The main reasons are many privacy and consumer advocates such as EFF only commits to half-steps at best, doesn’t go far enough in other regards, and even takes a step back in other regards. ACLU calls this a tricky piece of legislation because the people who normally support such privacy legislation are split on the issue. We in a sense are choosing not to support it because ultimately like the CCPA it leaves too many loopholes for big tech to take advantage of, makes changes to such an agency difficult to amend later if not established correctly, and there are several confusing and unresolved issues with the legislation. One of the main issues pointed to is that when you leave the state as many people in our hypermobile country do, your data privacy rights would disappear across the digital geographical borders. Also, in some cases it leaves open the possibility that you could be charged for not releasing your data to companies, making the law favorable for big tech.

The bottom line is that this proposition does not change the power for big tech companies to use our data or charge us if we don’t give them our data. No one is going to want to fill out paperwork to have access to their data, this more or less makes it clear this was not written with outright protection of consumers. For this reason, we must clearly oppose this proposition and hope the people behind this proposition bring together more consumer and privacy protection organizations together in the future to clearly benefit the people.

Electronic Frontier Foundation says they don’t support Prop 24 but after reading the article that they are a far stronger No than they want to may admit. They point out that this allows companies to block you from certain apps unless you opt in and give up your privacy. ACLU who outright opposes this says Prop 24 is part of pay for privacy schemes and this prop would be loved by big tech companies. Others point to the fact that since CCPA was just implemented we may not have enough understanding of how such a protection agency would influence the privacy landscape. This was basically a well-intentioned measure but was written without a true coalition of stakeholders who if had a say in the proposition would more likely be endorsing it. We have to think that the rich landlord who thinks the world of himself assumed he could push legislation through on his own. However, we would hope prop 24 fails due to a lack of coalition of experts in privacy rights who built out the policy, so in the future those who build out this agency create something that is far more protective for consumers. For instance, the people who should have been considered when writing this bill like the Electronic Frontier Foundation, who you can tell in their write up really want to support the proposition but are clear there are serious issues and it doesn’t go far enough. They don’t necessarily oppose prop 24 but the key here is that they can’t support prop 24 outright. Not everyone was so neutral though, as we also see that there are many other organizations you would expect to support a digital privacy proposition but oppose it such as the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of California, League of Women’s Voters of California, Color of Change, Center for Digital Democracy, Consumer Federation of California, Consumer Federation of California, labor and civil rights leader Dolores Huerta, TURN – The Utility Reform Network, Older Women's League of Sacramento, Oakland Privacy, Public Citizen, Media Alliance, and a complete list here.

The digital space changes rapidly — the number of people it affects and the number of sectors it continues to change grows daily. We are all aware of its enormity and how important it is that we keep up with it, but insofar as how legislation relates to that, we are all still learning the ropes. The rules and issues keep advancing — this makes it hard to enter the conversation if we are not in the minority who engage with these issues daily. But it affects all of us and we share all the broader fears while knowing so little about the nuance. Because of this, it seems more necessary to make sure that policy and legislation relating to digital markets and privacy be comprehensive covering all possible scenarios and side effects, allowing for amendments/checks/balances the first time around. As things move at racing speed, we cannot be stuck battling incomplete laws. The most relatable analogy here for many Angelenos is the constant battles regarding policy relating to streaming and copyright. As that digital space grows and takes over other modes of distribution and sales — more of us small business owners/ sole proprietors become aware of what we are losing as a result of arcane legislation that’s more in our faces now. The time spent battling old, well intentioned legislation has often proven more harmful than helpful — we might wish that we could start anew allowing more room for evolution. Currently, Prop 24 seems to penalize those who choose to opt out and activate their privacy rights, excepting them from certain services or charging them a “privacy tax.” So, if you don’t want to go along with this it’s fine but likely you may now get penalized in the form of service downgrades, bad connections, slower downloads and more pop up ads. Meanwhile, it allows companies to use and share your personal information without your knowledge, but as long as there is a consumer privacy agency you can sleep well at night. While the goal of this proposition is well directed, let’s make sure the digital privacy policies we endorse have fewer missed opportunities to protect us from navigating it in the future.