Thanks to your support, this year EFF was able to take a stand in state legislatures across the country to fight well-funded industry efforts to encroach on your data privacy rights, to push back against government use of face surveillance, and to support bills that improve your digital rights. Here are some highlights of our victories in the states—both in California and across the country.
Defending the California Consumer Privacy Act
EFF undertook a year-long fight to stop the California legislature from weakening the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA), and the protections it enshrines. Big technology companies backed a number of bills that would have significantly undermined this historic law. Fortunately, the worst provisions of these bills did not make it through the legislature—though it wasn’t for lack of trying. Lawmakers proposed bills that would have opened up loopholes in the law and made it easier for businesses to skirt privacy. As a result of this hard work, along with our coalition partners and other stakeholders, the California State Legislature stood up for the privacy law that they passed last year. For example, our coalition successfully stopped two particularly bad bills, S.B. 753 (Stern) and A.B. 1416 (Cooley), which would have created broad loopholes for the advertising industry and to allow companies to share information with the government. We expect these bills to come back in the new year, and will continue the fight against them.
While the CCPA is important for Californians’ consumer data privacy, it needs to be stronger. EFF and other privacy organizations earlier this year advanced two bills to strengthen the CCPA, which met significant opposition from technology industry trade association groups. So, our work is far from over.
Opposing Broadband Deregulation
EFF was proud to support A.B. 1699 (Levine), a bill signed into law by Gov. Gavin Newsom this year to ensure first responders’ access to phone service will not be throttled in emergency situations—as happened in August 2018 when Verizon throttled the wireless service of the Santa Clara Fire Department as it fought a massive fire.
That incident made clear that the state had no means of holding the company accountable, and underscored the importance of having a strong state telecommunications regulator. Yet AT&T and Comcast lobbyists fought hard this year to pass A.B. 1366, a bill that would have protected their broadband monopolies from oversight by renewing Public Utilities Code 710, which restrained the state’s authority over broadband. With that law set to expire at the end of this year, it is critical the state of California use its power to implement a plan to connect all Californians to affordable high-speed fiber access to the Internet.
Fighting Government Face Surveillance
It was a banner year for fighting government use of face surveillance, with cities including San Francisco and Oakland passing municipal bans. The state of California also passed an important law: A.B. 1215 (Ting) places a three-year moratorium on the use of face surveillance on cameras worn or carried by police officers. This gives legislators and citizens time to evaluate the dangers of face surveillance, and it prevents the threat of mass biometric surveillance from becoming the new normal.
We are encouraging communities across the country to advocate for face recognition bans in your own cities and towns. Take this opportunity to advocate for the end of government use of this harmful technology in your own neighborhoods.
Improving Pretrial Risk Assessment
We also worked closely with Sen. Bob Hertzberg’s office on S.B. 36, which was signed into law and improves oversight and transparency in the state’s use of algorithms and other automated technologies in pretrial risk assessments. Courts use PRAs to determine whether a defendant should be held in jail or set free before their trial. agencies to make sure that these tools have been validated not only for accuracy, but also for whether they disparately impact people of different gender, race, and ethnicity. It also requires the California Judicial Council to publish statistics that offer insight into how these tools are used to give the public a better opportunity to evaluate how such tools are used in their communities.
Legislative Wins Outside California
We also had the privilege to support efforts from our coalition partners in legislatures across the country. This includes: passing a strong broadband privacy bill in Maine alongside the ACLU of Maine and Consumer Reports; working with the ACLU of Oregon to stop a horrible harmful pay-for-privacy bill; and joining a broad coalition of groups in Washington to stop an industry-friendly “privacy” bill that would have given companies free reign to ignore consumer requests.
Looking ahead, we expect to continue working on strengthening state consumer data privacy laws, limiting how cities collect and use customer location data from companies such as Uber and Lyft, and supporting efforts to stop government use of face surveillance at the state level.
State legislators across the country are considering important issues, including consumer privacy, the right to repair, and government use of face surveillance. EFF will continue to work with lawmakers across the country to build on laws to expand consumer protections, to support laws that protect consumers and their rights, and to oppose federal efforts to take away those rights.
This article is part of our Year in Review series. Read other articles about the fight for digital rights in 2019.
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