As reported by the LA Times, “a powerful coalition of technology companies and business lobbies that included Facebook, Inc., Google, Inc., the California Chamber of Commerce, insurers, bankers and cable television companies as well as direct marketers and data brokers” were able to stop a California bill aimed at giving consumers greater insight as to the use of their personal data.
First introduced in February by Assemblywoman Bonnie Lowenthal (D-Long Beach), the proposed Right to Know Law (AB 1291) would have implemented major revisions to existing law and created new rights for consumers. Specifically, the proposed law would require
any business that has a customer’s personal information, as defined, to provide at no charge, within 30 days of the customer’s specified request, a copy of that information to the customer as well as the names and contact information for all 3rd parties with which the business has shared the information during the previous 12 months, regardless of any business relationship with the customer.
This new level of transparency might have helped sooth consumer concerns. According to a 2012 USC Dornsife/Los Angeles Times poll, “82 percent of Californians said they are “very concerned” or “somewhat concerned” about Internet and smartphone companies collecting their personal information.” On the other hand, providing a full and accurate accounting of who had access to a consumer’s data – even to only the small percentage of consumers who would actually take the time to request it – would have generated a major undertaking for a wide range of companies. It is not surprising that the companies who fought so hard to pull the plug on this bill represent a very diverse coalition of businesses.
Even if this bill does not get revived in a new form sometime in the future, the prospect of what it might have brought to the table should serve as a wake up call to those businesses deep into online behavioral advertizing. It may be time to better understand just who has access to what information – and it may not eventually matter whether that information belongs to a current client or consumer or whether it was anonymized. As usual, staying in front of the regulatory curve remains a sound business practice.