Politics & Government

Want more control of your online data? This bill in the Legislature could help

Want more control over your online data? There’s a bill the 2020 Legislature will consider that could help. Here are the details.

The bill: SB 6281. Sen. Reuven Carlyle, D-Seattle, is the sponsor.

What it would do: The measure would give people the right to know which data companies are using their personal data and why, to correct data, to delete certain data, and to opt out of the processing of their data for targeted advertising. It also would set up steps companies must take to disclose how they manage data and establishes limits on the commercial use of facial recognition technology.

The state Attorney General’s office would enforce the law. The bill does not include a provision enabling people to sue based directly on a state law.

How it compares to other states: The bill is the “most comprehensive state privacy legislation proposed to date,” with consumer protections that go beyond a California law that took effect Jan. 1, according to the Future of Privacy Forum, a nonprofit group based in Washington, D.C., that focuses on data privacy issues.

The bill has a section on “data minimization” that is close to the regulation in European Union law, said Stacey Gray, the group’s senior counsel. The bill says companies’ collection of personal data “must be adequate, relevant, and limited to what is reasonably necessary.”

“If your purpose, for example, is to know whether somebody is using your app if you’re an app developer, you wouldn’t need to collect their geo-location at all times to know whether or not they are checking in once a day; just don’t sweep up more than you need to do a particular thing,” Gray said.

What supporters say: “We as individuals have a fundamental right to know how our data is being used,” said Carlyle, chair of the Senate committee that votes on technology issues. “We have a right to access that data. We have a right to correct that data if it is inaccurate. We should have a right to delete that data. And we should have the right to portability — to transfer that data among providers.

“And finally, we should have right to opt out from targeted ads and from the sales of our data and from profiling. ... We’ve really tried to be thoughtful and respectful of the needs for business and industry” so it’s not another layer of regulation, Carlyle said.

What opponents say: “Washington deserves privacy regulations that are as meaningful as California’s and Europe’s, and this bill just doesn’t meet those standards,” Jennifer Lee, ACLU of Washington Technology and Liberty Advocate, said in a written statement. “First of all, your decisions should be the final decisions on what happens to your data. This bill was crafted without community voices at the table and doesn’t allow everyday people to use the courts to defend their privacy decisions. Its loopholes even give companies the opportunity to override those decisions.”

Chances of passage this year: Last year, the Senate voted 46-1 to approve a similar bill, but SB 5376 died in the House. At a press conference Monday, Carlyle’s bill received bipartisan support from Sen. Ann Rivers, R-La Center. “Data privacy for consumers is not a partisan issue,” she said. State Rep. Matt Boehnke, R-Kennewick, was listed as a speaker, but did not attend. An aide said Boehnke believes the bill is “about 90 per cent of the way there” and he is neutral.

A consumer data industry trade group said Monday it’s too early to comment on Carlyle’s bill. Carlyle said some House members want consumers to be able to file lawsuits to enforce the proposed law.