The state Legislature is working on a bill, SB 5376, to address the security and privacy of consumers’ data online. Yet in a series of private meetings on Wednesday and Thursday, lawmakers included lobbyists for the companies that collect, buy and sell consumers’ data, while excluding advocates for consumers and the public.
State Rep. Shelley Kloba spoke for most Washingtonians, saying, “Washington consumers deserve world-class privacy protections, and they deserve a seat at the table. This can ensure that any legislation we pass grants a set of enforceable rights, has strong provisions for transparency, meaningful consent, and universal application regardless of the size of the company that holds the data. Consumer advocates have shaped the legislation before us in a positive way and they deserve to remain in the discussion.”
A coalition of more than 20 state-based and national consumer and privacy groups, including WashPIRG, the ACLU of Washington, and Consumer Reports, have opposed the bill from the beginning because it contains too many exemptions. But it has already passed the state Senate, and an amended version has passed out of the House Appropriations Committee.
WashPIRG state director Elise Orlick issued the following statement in response:
“Exemptions and loopholes in SB 5376 mean that it will fail to defend consumers’ privacy. For example, data collectors could keep mining consumers’ personal information if they mention that they might in one of those impenetrable privacy policies — or if the data collectors meet the vague standard of having ‘legitimate grounds’ to do so. This low bar does not provide meaningful protection.
“We think it was a mistake for Senator Reuven Carlyle to seek the input of lobbyists for big tech companies, including Amazon and Comcast, without asking for advice from those of us whose primary mission is to protect consumers or, for that matter, actual consumers.
“More importantly, the bill leaves Washingtonians without the protection they deserve. The lawmakers should start over and try again, with the voices of consumers included from the beginning.”