The issue of electronic data privacy — the freedom to be left alone without our digital footprints and identity being monitored, monetized and used without our permission — is not a department down the hall, a staid academic theory or a white paper from a think tank.
Privacy is central to our identity, liberties and voice.
Concerns over privacy are held by left and right, urban and rural. Despite this, there are few rules or regulations today regarding the use of our consumer data. Like residents of Europe and now California enjoy, Washington residents need a modern, 21st-century regulatory privacy framework that meets the challenges of a data-fueled economy.
The Washington Privacy Act, Senate Bill 5062, takes the best practices from leading evidence-based policies worldwide and creates explicit new rights. They include the right to clearly and easily:
∙ See what information a company has about you and with whom it has been shared;
∙ Correct your data to ensure accuracy;
∙ Delete data that you no longer want a company to possess;
∙ Move your data to other providers;
∙ Opt-out of the use of your data for targeted adverting, sale of your data or additional profiling.
Importantly, there are unambiguous protections for the use of sensitive identifying data such as racial and ethnic origins, religious beliefs, health conditions, sexual identification, citizenship and immigration status, and genetic and biometric data, including personal data of known children and geolocation data. These uses of data that are most vulnerable to abuse are clearly and directly protected in this bill.
Ultimately, the goal of this historic legislation is to make it as easy to get your data out of the black hole of the internet as it is to get in.
If you choose to utilize a DNA testing service, this bill would accord you legal protections to immediately delete your data after you receive your results and be assured that your most sensitive and confidential family-identifying information is no longer being mined in the bowels of a company’s database. If you were to search for a product online, the bill would allow you to prevent ads for similar products from magically showing up on your social-media pages, your email accounts, even in your physical mailboxes. This bill — written over three years with an unprecedented transparent public process — empowers you to retake control over your own identity.
I understand that there are those on the rigid edges of political ideology who oppose this and any privacy bill that does not meet their organization’s exclusive policy criteria. They maintain that consumers cannot be trusted to exercise their rights in a manner that is consistent with their wishes, and so the foundational model of data and consumer relationships in the global marketplace should be completely scrapped. They oppose legislation that is functional and workable by industry or that empowers the Attorney General to lead the enforcement. As an elected official committed to forward progress, I reject ideologically pure politics that present perfect as the enemy of the good.
Versions of this bill have passed the state Senate two years in a row with virtually unanimous 46-1 votes. At the constructive insistence of the Attorney General, this year’s version substantially strengthens the enforcement authority. In three years and dozens of public hearings, meanwhile, American Civil Liberties Union-written privacy language has failed to advance through the legislative process.
The Washington Privacy Act — supported by Gov. Jay Inslee and many others — delivers clear, accessible and enforceable privacy protections and enhances the core of our treasured rights for today’s digital era. As the home of innovation with many of the premier companies in the world — and fierce constitutional privacy rights — Washington is positioned as the ideal state to pass bold consumer privacy legislation for the 21st century.