Published:Thursday, January 28, 2021
Every day, our personal information is collected, used and shared, often without our knowledge, much less our consent.
In 2020 alone, we learned that: big-box retailers like Walmart and Best Buy, supermarkets, pharmacies, and law enforcement have been covertly surveilling our faces and adding them to Clearview AI’s facial recognition database; the developers of hundreds of smartphone apps, including prayer and dating apps targeting Muslims, have been secretly selling our location data to the U.S. military; and big tech companies like Google, Amazon and Facebook have been surreptitiously tracking us, collecting information about our online browsing habits, and sharing information like names, addresses, date of birth and relationship statuses without people’s consent.
New technologies are making it easier for companies to learn about the most intimate aspects of both our online and offline activities — from where we live and work, to what religion we practice, what we purchase, what we read, and with whom we associate and share information. Our information is often used to target and manipulate us, even by entities with whom we had no prior contact. The problem has gotten so bad that even former employees of the big tech companies that helped build the very data mining tools that are used to exploit our personal information have openly criticized their employers and have called for strong data privacy laws to hold these companies accountable.
Washington must pass a strong, people-centric privacy law.
As threats to our privacy and civil liberties continue to mushroom in size and scope, Washington legislators have a historic opportunity to enact the People’s Privacy Act (HB 1433), a data privacy law that truly puts the interests of people and communities first.
The ACLU of Washington and the Tech Equity Coalition — a group of civil liberties and civil rights-focused organizations and individuals working to hold technology accountable — collaborated with sponsor Rep. Kloba (D - Kirkland) to introduce this law.
The People’s Privacy Act would empower each of us to have meaningful control over our personal information by:
- Prohibiting companies from using, selling, or sharing data without our affirmative “opt-in” consent;
- Making it unlawful for companies and government agencies to use people’s personal information to discriminate;
- Banning use or installation of facial recognition technology or equipment incorporating artificial intelligence-enabled profiling in any place of public accommodation (e.g., restaurants, hotels, theaters, pharmacies, parks, schools, and stores);
- Ensuring that any legislation that passes does not restrict local jurisdictions from advancing stronger privacy laws where needed; and
- Empowering people to take companies to court if they violate our data rights.
“The People’s Privacy Act will put people back in control of their own data. It’s really privacy by design,” said Kloba. “Companies will not be able to use your data unless you have given your express authorization. We have debated this issue for the past two years, but since March it has really taken on a new urgency. We shed data with every online interaction and with so much of our lives now lived online, it is vital that we enact this legislation this year.”
These strong privacy protections are necessary to protect our civil rights and civil liberties.
Non-transparent and unaccountable collection of our personal information chills free speech and free association, undermines press freedom, and threatens the free exercise of religion. That we are increasingly required to share personal information or allow surveillance as a consequence of simply participating in public life and accessing basic social goods, services, and opportunities threatens our rights.
Moreover, privacy violations and misuse of personal information disproportionately impact people with lower incomes and people of color who are already subjected to outsized surveillance and data-based discrimination.
The People’s Privacy Act is the right approach.
The People’s Privacy Act will prevent our information from being collected, used, and shared in any way without our affirmative, opt-in consent. It will prohibit companies and government entities from using our information to surveil, profile, or discriminate against us. It will give people the power to take companies to court for privacy violations. Other privacy bills that do not empower people to understand and enforce their privacy rights should be soundly rejected.
We are excited to support a community-driven, consumer-focused bill in the 2021 legislative session. We hope you also support the People’s Privacy Act as the best way to ensure that Washington achieves a strong, people-centric privacy law.