Get consumer data protection done right, not rushed

OPINION – There is a saying in sports, speed kills, meaning an athlete who manages to get to the ball or into position faster has a clear advantage.

In policymaking, however, speed works the other way. When legislation addressing complex matters is rushed through, it often creates as many, if not more, problems as it was designed to address.

The risk of moving too quickly and ignoring warning signs is playing out as the California Legislature is racing to its close next week.

Some lawmakers are pushing to rush through the Delete Act (SB 362), allowing consumers to wipe their online data in one fell swoop. Concerningly, there is a lengthy list of unintended consequences for small businesses and consumers that policymakers need to consider. Without enough time to weigh them, particularly those with significant identity theft risks, this bill should not be rushed in the last 10 days of the session.

SB 362 would undermine protections for consumers and their privacy. Eliminating your data means all of your data. This legislation does not allow for the balance established just a few years ago by the California Consumer Privacy Act, which empowers an individual to choose which companies can use their data.

The risk of moving too quickly and ignoring warning signs is playing out as the California Legislature is racing to its close next week.

For instance, you may want to have ways for your healthcare provider to make sure they can get in touch with you.

You may want to have the ability to prove your identity to your financial institution, participate in consumer loyalty programs to earn points and rewards, or choose to have local organizations advocate on your behalf regarding important legislation. These are just a few of the ways this legislation would negatively impact Californians, and lawmakers have not addressed them.

As it stands, SB 362 is an all-or-nothing proposition for consumers. Wipe all of your data or none of your data. As with most things in life, what people want is somewhere in the middle. We want to improve privacy and protections without losing the power to utilize our information in specific ways.

One reason for the strong push to get this bill passed without considering the concerning impacts is that some of the biggest advocates for the legislation – including the investor co-sponsor of the bill Tom Kemp – stand to financially benefit from its passage. Certain provisions in the legislation are beneficial to these interests. Those pushing the legislation provide services that will delete your data for you – for a price.

Companies like Atlas Privacy and DeleteMe will have every Californian as their prospective customer under SB 362. Of course, they and their investors do not want to wait one minute longer to tap that market and rake in huge profits – unfortunately, even at the expense of individuals who may not understand what they’re paying for.

These companies’ quest for profits should not come ahead of making sure the legislation is done right and in the best interest of California consumers. Protecting consumer data is important. Empowering consumers to have actual control over their data is also important.

Glaringly, SB 362 excludes companies like social media platforms and search engines which generate billions in advertising revenue by collecting vast amounts of consumer data. The rush to get this bill through rather than get it right may mean that small businesses can’t compete for affordable advertising, while the big players get even bigger.

Let’s invest the time to develop a thoughtful path forward on consumer data. In this case, speed stands to remove consumers’ ability to legitimately control their data.

Rachel Michelin is the President and CEO of the California Retailers Association








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