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Safeguarding online privacy

RIGHTS

From the new year, California residents will be granted “unprecedented rights” to control the information tech companies — often unknowingly — gather on them. The Los Angeles Times reports the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) will oblige “most large businesses in the nation [to] follow the new rules, which are supposed to make online life more transparent and less creepy for users.” In theory, the Act will enable Los Angeles’ 40 million residents to see exactly what information has been gathered, and know if it is being sold on. The law also offers people an opt-out option.

The idea for such protection took shape at a party where Alastair Mactaggart, a San Francisco real estate developer, had a disconcerting conversation over cocktails about digital privacy with a Google tech head. Shortly after, Mactaggart decided to bankroll a campaign to have the measure added to the 2018 ballot. During the campaign, Mitch Noordyke, an attorney specialising in privacy legislation, told CNET, “advocates rode a wave of public sentiment in favour of privacy protections to force through legislation otherwise opposed by industry.”


However, only companies with more than US$25 million in revenue or access to the personal information of more than 50,000 people will be required to conform with the new law. Still, the CCPA’s definition of personal information is broad: data such as browsing history, personal characteristics, and location information are all protected. And where California leads, other US states will surely follow. “As more states follow California's lead and push forward with new privacy laws,” said Mary Race, a privacy attorney in California, “we'll likely see increased pressure on the federal government to take a more proactive role in the privacy sphere.”

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