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California Senate Committee Passes Broad Online Privacy Bill

The Judiciary Committee of the California State Senate on Tuesday passed SB761, legislation that would broadly regulate all online data collection and impose a “do not track” regulatory regime for online behavioral advertising.  The bill was approved on a 3-2 vote and now goes to the Senate Appropriations Committee.  We need your help to defeat this proposal.

Senate Bill 761 was introduced on March 24th by Senator Alan Lowenthal.  The bill covers an overly broad range of information collected online, both personally identifiable information and anonymous data such as IP addresses and click-stream data.  It would direct the California Attorney General, in consultation with the California Office of Privacy Protection, to develop a regulatory regime to require companies engaged in online behavioral advertising or other Internet information collection to provide consumers with notice and the ability to opt out of the collection and use of information for those purposes.  Any company that failed to comply with the regulations would be subject to civil penalties of up to $1,000 and possibly punitive damages.  The bill authorizes the Attorney General to impose a requirement that companies provide access to consumers to all of the information collected about them online. 

ANA joined with a broad coalition of state and national industry groups to file comments describing the serious problems with this legislation.  We also filed separate comments with the Judiciary Committee members.  We will now be reaching out to the Appropriations Committee members.

It would be very helpful if your company would also contact the members to express your opposition.  Contact information is available at www.sen.ca.gov
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This bill is bad for consumers, bad for the business community and bad for the national economy.  We agree with the bill’s sponsor that consumers are entitled to notice about the collection of data for interest-based advertising and should have the ability to opt out of those practices.  However, we believe this can be best accomplished through strong, effective self-regulation rather than through government regulation.  ANA and other leading marketing associations launched a comprehensive new self-regulatory program for online behavioral advertising last October.  Information about the program is available at www.aboutads.info.

Consumers can go to that website today and opt-out of information collection for interest-based advertising.  We have encouraged all of our members to join this program, which covers the entire online ecosystem.  You can access our OBA toolkit here.

By imposing state-specific rules on information practices in a global medium, SB761 raises very serious interstate commerce concerns.  The bill is similar to the approach of legislation introduced in Congress by Congresswoman Jackie Speier (D-12/CA), the “Do Not Track Me Online Act” (H.R.654).   A government-imposed “Do Not Track” regime is a bad idea at the federal level and an even a worse idea at the state level where a checkerboard of inconsistent state regulation is almost certain to occur.

If you have any questions or comments about the California bill, please contact Dan Jaffe (djaffe@ana.net) or Keith Scarborough (kscarborough@ana.net) in ANA’s Washington, DC office at (202) 296-1883.

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