March 12, 2020
Consumer Reports urges lawmakers to continue work next year to safeguard the digital rights of consumers
OLYMPIA, Wash. — Washington state lawmakers failed to advance a new data privacy proposal called the 2020 Washington Privacy Act. The bill, sponsored by state Sen. Reuven Carlyle, would have extended to Washington consumers the right to access, delete, correct, and opt out of the sale of their personal information, with additional protections for sensitive data. The bill also required companies to keep this data secure, and prohibited companies from charging consumers for exercising their rights under the law.
Similar bills had passed both houses, but legislators were unable to come to agreement on whether to allow for private enforcement of the law. Washington would have become the third state to pass broad commercial privacy legislation following California and Nevada.
The legislation was a significant improvement over the 2019 privacy proposal that was opposed by privacy advocates and failed to get a final vote by the legislature. The Washington law would have offered protections not seen in other laws, including a prohibition on discrimination against individuals for exercising privacy rights. However, the bills were certainly not perfect — they both relied on consumers to have to exercise opt-out rights, and they did little to limit first-party data collection and use.
Despite the inability to pass a privacy bill, lawmakers should return next year to make more improvements in a new privacy bill to provide greater privacy protections and options for consumers.
Justin Brookman, Consumer Reports’ Director of Consumer Privacy and Technology Policy, said, “We are disappointed that Washington state legislators failed to secure online privacy protections for consumers this year. The 2020 Washington Privacy Act would have been an important step toward protecting Washington residents’ personal data. We would love to see legislators consider a more robust bill next year, and we are committed to working to find a way for consumers to enforce their rights without waiting for the attorney general.”
Maureen Mahoney, CR Policy Analyst, said, “Privacy is a right guaranteed by the Washington State Constitution, and we urge lawmakers to enable consumers to easily exercise these rights next year. We need to see legislators come back next year and improve the bill, to prevent companies from using the same tricks they’ve used elsewhere to avoid reforming their data practices when faced with new privacy law.”
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