Wednesday, April 10, 2013

EFF presses for update to California privacy law

By Jennifer Martinez - 04/03/13 01:14 PM ET, The Hill 

The Electronic Frontier Foundation is encouraging Californians to support a proposed update to a state law aimed at giving people greater access to the personal information that companies digitally store about them.

The bill, called the Right to Know Act, would require companies to provide people, upon request, with a copy of the personal information they collect about them. The measure would also require companies to share the names and contact information of the outside parties, such as data brokers and Web apps, they have shared people's data with during the last year.

"The new proposal brings California's outdated transparency law into the digital age, making it possible for California consumers to request an accounting of all the ways their personal information is being trafficked — including with online advertisers, data brokers, and third party apps," Rainey Reitman, activism director at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, writes in a blog post.
The advocacy group has started an online petition that people can sign to show their support for the bill. The American Civil Liberties Union, Privacy Rights Clearinghouse and other consumer groups also back the bill.

California Assembly member Bonnie Lowenthal (D-Long Beach) introduced the measure earlier this year as an update to a state law passed in 2003. The bill would update the existing law's definition of personal information, so companies would have to disclose whether they have collected data on people's location information, purchasing history and sexual orientation, among other details. It would also expand the current law's scope so the measure would require companies to disclose which data brokers, online advertisers and other Web entities they share people's information with.

"Today, our personal data is everywhere – we share it when using mobile phone apps, search engines and websites like Facebook and Twitter. Companies buy and sell it for profit. As technology advances, so should our consumer protections," Lowenthal said in a statement when she introduced the measure in February.

EFF's Reitman also added in the blog post that the proposed "law mimics the rights of data access already available to users in Europe, which means that most of the big tech companies should already have systems in place to facilitate user access."

The bill is expected to be heard in the California State Assembly's Judiciary Committee later this month. 

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