Prop. 24 would require businesses to protect consumer information

Prop 24
Josh Kahen/File
In November, California residents will vote on Proposition 24, which would strengthen California's consumer privacy laws and establish a California Privacy Protection Agency.

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In the face of allegations of companies sharing users’ information without their consent, Proposition 24 aims to limit businesses from profiting off users’ sensitive information.

Prop. 24 would require businesses to protect information such as a consumer’s health, finances, race, ethnicity and precise location. According to Nicolette Velazquez, spokesperson for Californians for Consumer Privacy, the proposition would establish a California Privacy Protection Agency. This agency would issue penalties and fines to businesses violating the privacy laws.

Velazquez said Prop. 24 would strengthen the California Consumer Privacy Act, or CCPA. The CCPA was established in the aftermath of the Cambridge Analytica scandal, in which Facebook users’ data were collected and mined for personal details by firm Cambridge Analytica.

The CCPA makes it mandatory for businesses making more than $25 million to disclose which third-party sources have access to users’ information. The act also requires companies to make the collected information accessible to users and removable upon request.

Ashkan Soltani, a privacy and security technology researcher, said Prop. 24 is relevant to today’s pressing issues.

“Most people have no idea that when they open their weather app or their food ordering app, information is also sold and shared with, you know, people other than the app developer,” Soltani said.

According to Soltani, once a user opens an app, a real-time auction occurs. Advertising companies compete with one another to place a relevant ad, often based on the user’s location, on the app. All the competing companies thus have access to the user’s information.

Soltani also mentioned the Black Lives Matter movement’s protests and law enforcement’s ability to identify protesters based on their shared location data. He added that the travel patterns of people infected with COVID-19 were recorded through their geolocation data as well.

Prop. 24 would offer a “global opt-out” option, which users would be able to install on their operating systems when they set up their devices, according to Soltani. All websites and services would receive the users’ requests to opt out of their information being sold.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation, or EFF, however, sees Prop. 24 as only a partial step toward protecting consumer information.

“Prop 24 does not empower consumers to sue businesses that violate their privacy rights,” the EFF website states. “Without effective enforcement, a law is just a piece of paper.”

EFF claims that Prop. 24 would make it more difficult for consumers to remove their sensitive information. According to EFF, businesses could force consumers to jump through confusing hoops to identify exactly where they can request data deletion.

Prop 24. will be voted on by California residents Nov. 3.

Contact Kelly Nguyen at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @KellyNguyen_DC.