SACRAMENTO — California lawmakers blocked an effort to expand the state’s sweeping new data privacy law Thursday, handing a victory to the tech industry as it faces mounting scrutiny over how it collects, stores and sells consumers’ information.
The California Consumer Privacy Act will be the first of its kind in the United States when it takes effect next year. It gives customers the right to know what data companies are collecting from them as well as the right to delete and restrict the sale of that information.
Lawmakers passed it hastily last year to avoid a privacy-related ballot measure that business and tech groups opposed. Legislation is easier to fix and update than a ballot measure, and lawmakers pledged to keep working on it.
State Attorney General Xavier Becerra and some privacy advocates called on lawmakers to go further this year and give the public a right to take companies to court over violations of law and to toughen how the state enforces its provisions.
Effort to Beef Up Law Dies in Committee
Privacy advocates rallied this year behind the idea of letting consumers sue companies over other violations of the act, arguing it would ensure accountability in the tech industry. Democratic Sen. Hannah Beth Jackson of Santa Barbara introduced a bill that would have, for example, allowed people to sue if a company refused to delete data when a customer requested it.
The current law would let consumers sue only if the data is breached in certain circumstances.
But the Senate Appropriations Committee killed Jackson’s proposal. Jackson pointed to the political influence of the tech industry as the legislation’s prospects dimmed.
“The truth of the matter is the tech world is such a behemoth at this point in time, they have so much money, they have really been driving this whole discussion,” Jackson said.
Major tech companies, including Amazon and Facebook, lobbied lawmakers about the legislation, according to disclosures filed with the California Secretary of State’s Office.
State Chamber of Commerce Opposed It
A long list of other business groups also came out against the bill, suggesting it would be a boon for trial lawyers while tying up businesses in litigation and contending enforcement is best left to the attorney general’s office.
The California chamber of commerce, CalChamber, said the goal of the bill “appears to be lawsuits and attorney’s fees.”
“Compliance with the CCPA should be the goal of any regulatory enforcement and having individual trial lawyers responsible for enforcement as is the case in SB 561 will not serve that goal,” said Sarah Boot of CalChamber.
Meanwhile, business groups are pushing various bills to either tinker with the law or create some large exceptions.
Grocery stores and other businesses, for example, are backing a bill that would allow businesses to continue operating loyalty card programs. Other legislation would allow companies to sell data for certain purposes from consumers who have opted out of having their data sold.