The confusing ballot measure that has privacy expert organizations divided

Photo+of+Hans+Johnson+provided+by+Hans+Johnson

Photo of Hans Johnson provided by Hans Johnson

Zoe Little, Community News Reporter

Would Proposition 24 improve the state’s privacy laws, which are already considered some of the strictest in the country?

That depends on who you ask.

Supporters include former vice president candidate Andrew Yang, California NAACP State Conference, Consumer Watchdog, a nonpartisan nonprofit that voices consumer and taxpayer concerns. Some of them say the measure would ensure state privacy laws can’t be reversed by legislators, since state ballot measures that are approved in California can only be repealed if it goes back to the voters. 

Photo of Marva Diaz Representative for No on 24, photo provided by Marva Diaz
Photo of Marva Diaz Representative for No on 24, photo provided by Marva Diaz

Opponents include Dolores Huerta, co-founder of the United Farm Workers, ACLU of California and the League of Women Voters of California. Some of them are concerned the measure would allow commercial credit and data companies to sell small business owners’ information.

In November, Californians will have to decide whether Prop. 24 will increase consumer privacy protections or hurt small and minority business owners. 

Known as the Consumer Personal Information Law and Agency Initiative, Prop. 24 aims to strengthen and amend some of the loose ends of the California Consumer Privacy Act of 2018 (CCPA), an existing privacy law in California.

“We’ve come a long way in the two years since passing the landmark California Consumer Privacy Act, but during these times of unprecedented uncertainty, we need to ensure that the laws keep pace with the ever-changing ways corporations and other entities are using our data,” Alastair Mactaggart, a real estate developer who filed the ballot initiative, said in an argument for the measure on Ballotpedia.

According to the ballot summary, the measure would allow consumers to prevent personal information from being shared: It would limit the use by businesses of “sensitive personal information” such as race, ethnicity, religion, geolocation, sexual orientation, and health information. The measure would also establish a new organization, the California Privacy Protection Agency, which would enforce privacy laws, change the criteria for how businesses comply to such laws, prohibit businesses from holding data for longer than necessary, and authorize civil penalties for theft of login information.

“Make no mistake: If Proposition 24 is defeated, the beneficiaries would be businesses that want to exploit your privacy without your consent,” wrote Michael Hiltzik, a Los Angeles Times columnist.

While supporters of this ballot measure are confident that consumers’ control over their personal information privacy will increase, the opposition discusses the ways in which the ballot measure creates loopholes that would impact small business owners.

The CCPA went into effect in January but the complexity of the law means it was not finalized until August and the effects haven’t been fully realized.

“With CCPA…just going into effect this year, that further changes should be data-driven and based on how the current law is working and not working,” Tracy Rosenberg, the executive director of Media Alliance, said in an interview. Media Alliance is  a media change organization working to make deeper connections with social justice movements.

Photo of Tracy Rosenberg Provided by Tracy Rosenberg
Photo of Tracy Rosenberg Provided by Tracy Rosenberg

Hans Johnson, president of the East Area Progressive Democrats (EAPD), the largest Democratic club in California, said the measure is not what it seems: “We see it as a wolf in sheep’s clothing that weakens state law. With its complicated opt-out rules and pay-to-play provisions, this measure sets a bad precedent and would undercut consumer privacy, not uphold it.”

The pay-to-play provision concerns many opponents because it would allow businesses to charge a premium or withhold promotional sales from a consumer if they choose to opt-out of having their data collected.

Khaim Morton, former vice president of the Sacramento Metro Chamber, pointed out that this measure would still allow small-business owners’ personal data to be sold by data corporations and commercial credit agencies which eliminate the privacy protections for minority-run businesses. This practice maintains the legacy of redlining by allowing “neighborhood scoring” to continue being used by data corporations. Companies do this by examining the data of individuals within certain neighborhoods and using that information to determine whether or not they are going to invest in that area, according to an article from CalMatters. 

“We urge California voters to oppose Prop 24 for the same basic reason so many consumers, privacy and social justice groups oppose this deceptive measure: it weakens landmark privacy protections that California just passed, particularly for vulnerable or disadvantaged populations like immigrants or people of color. Prop 24 creates a loophole that allows commercial credit agencies and data corporations to sell the personal information of small-business owners. This loophole weakens the privacy of small business owners and hurts our minority-owned small businesses the most.” Marva Diaz, a representative for No on 24, said in an interview.