Online Privacy: CA Governor Jerry Brown Enacts ‘Milestone’ Law

California Governor Jerry Brown signed off on what will now become the nation’s strongest internet privacy law, after both houses of the state’s legislature passed the bill, AB 375, unanimously earlier in the day. A top online privacy advocate called the quick passage and approval of the bill, which is now law in the nation’s most populous state, a “milestone moment.”

The new law requires online companies such as Facebook, Amazon, Google and any site that collects user data not only to reveal exactly what data they have collected whenever a user requests it, an companies must also delete that data upon request.

Companies must also stop selling a user’s personal information if the user tells them to, under the new law, which also bans the companies from selling the data of persons under 16 years old, according to the text of the bill.  

The technology news site CNet said that the new law, the California Consumer Privacy Act of 2018, “is poised to reshape how Silicon Valley does business.”

“This is a milestone moment for privacy law in the United States," said Electronic Privacy Information Center Executive Director Marc Rotenberg. "The California Privacy Act sends a powerful message that people care about privacy and that lawmakers will act."

The passage and enactment of the tough California privacy law comes one day after media reports revealed that a previously obscure Florida marketing firm, Exactis, had collected personal data on 340 million people and businesses—and somehow left that data exposed on a publicly accessible server.

Vinny Troia, the cybersecurity researcher who first exposed the Exactis leak, told Wired Magazine that the little-known company appeared to have assembled “a database with pretty much every U.S. citizen in it.”

The law also comes just two months after Facebook admitted that it sold that personal information on 50 million Americans to an academic researcher, who then sold the data to Cambridge Analytica, the now-defunct British political consulting form that used that data to micro-target voters to influence the 2016 presidential election, according to a CNBC report

A Facebook spokesperson called the new California law “not perfect,” but said that the social media giant nonetheless will support the Privacy Act, and “look forward to working with policymakers on an approach that protects consumers and promotes responsible innovation.”

Photo by California Air Resources Board / Wikimedia Commons