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California Governor Signs Bills to Expand Digital Rights by Protecting Genetic Data Privacy, Expanding Broadband

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Governor Newsom this week signed new bills into law that will strengthen privacy and security protections for genetic data collected by direct-to-consumer (DTC) genetic testing companies like 23andMe, and expand broadband access for residents of California. 

The bill SB 41 will require DTC genetic testing companies to obtain consumers’ consent before collecting, using, or disclosing their genetic data. Importantly, the bill has a strong definition of consent, including a prohibition on the use of so-called dark patterns, which are interfaces that push consumers to take actions that they did not intend, in obtaining consent. The measure gained support from both consumer advocates and industry, and from legislators on both sides of the aisle. 

The Governor also signed AB 825, CR-supported legislation to add genetic data to the state’s data security and data breach notification frameworks, including significant penalties in the event of a negligent data breach.

“We’re thrilled that the governor has strengthened the privacy safeguards over genetic data collected by direct-to-consumer testing companies. This is highly personal information, and people should have greater protections over this kind of data,” said Maureen Mahoney, senior policy analyst at Consumer Reports. “California is also setting an important legal precedent by prohibiting dark patterns, so consumers know what they’re getting into when they authorize the collection, use and disclosure of their personal information.”

The Governor also signed CR-supported legislation, SB 4 and AB 14, to extend broadband access in California. Together, the bills ensure appropriate funding for broadband infrastructure programs, so that underserved communities across the state are able to access these essential services. Such access is particularly crucial in light of the pandemic.

We are pleased to see states like California take the initiative to get better and more affordable broadband to its citizens,” said Jonathan Schwantes, senior policy counsel at Consumer Reports. “While Congress debates legislation that will bridge the digital divide for all Americans, these new laws in California will help tens of millions of residents in the Golden State.”  

Contact: Cyrus Rassool, cyrus.rassool@consumer.org