The Controversy Around Proposition 24

By Jemima McEvoy Monday, October 26, 2020

You may have heard the term Proposition 24 thrown around over the past few weeks and wondered: what is that, and why is everyone talking about it? Proposition 24, a ballot measure in California, is controversial for a reason. It could have major implications for how consumers are treated going forward — not just in California, but in the United States as a whole.

Here’s everything you need to know about Proposition 24 and why it’s the subject of such fervent debate.

What Is Proposition 24?

Proposition 24 is a set of new privacy rules that residents of California will consider this Election Day (November 3). This expansion of consumer privacy laws builds off the California Consumer Privacy Act of 2018, which allowed Californians to find out what information businesses had collected about them and ask them to stop selling their personal data. In many ways, this was considered a trailblazing model for protecting the rights of consumers, an issue that has become increasingly discussed in the public sphere in recent years. However, many thought this initial act did not go far enough, which critics of Proposition 24 say still isn’t being addressed this time around.

Here’s what Proposition 24 would do:

  • Strengthen privacy laws by allowing customers to instruct businesses to limit the use of sensitive personal information like their location, race, religion, and health information.
  • Prohibit businesses from holding onto consumer data for longer than necessary.
  • Raising fines against businesses that violate children’s privacy rights.
  • Create a new state agency dedicated to enforcing these laws.
  • Reduce the number of businesses that have to comply with these laws, stipulating that only companies that buy or sell the data of at least 100,000 households a year.

The measures come from prominent consumer privacy advocate and real estate developer Alastair Mactaggart, who is the main backer of Prop. 24, having funded it with $5.5 million so far. Per a website explaining the proposition, Mactaggart began advocating for consumer privacy a few years ago after meeting a Google engineer at a dinner party who told him Americans would be shocked to find out how much technology companies knew about them. Mactaggart was key in pushing through the California Consumer Privacy Act in 2018 but said it needs some changes, which is why he has focused his effort on Prop. 24 ever since.

Why Is It Controversial?

Who Is for Prop 24?

Proposition 24 has gained a lot of support from groups and individuals, including Consumer Watchdog, California NAACP State Conference, Common Sense Media, California’s NAACP President Alice Huffman, former Democratic presidential candidate Andrew Yang, US Rep. Ro Khanna (D-CA), and State Sen. Robert Hertzberg (D-18). Those in favor of Proposition 24 say it would offer historic protections to consumers and bolster the existing privacy law, which, as of now, does not go far enough.

“Updates in Prop. 24 would create a system to enforce the privacy law and triple fines on companies that violate kids’ privacy,” explains Cal Matters. “They would give consumers more control over their most personal data, allow you to shield your precise location from tracking, and give you more ability to sue companies if your email and password are stolen or hacked. Passing this proposition will make it harder for lobbyists to change privacy laws in the Legislature.”

Carmen Balber, the executive director of nonprofit consumer rights advocate Consumer Watchdog, endorsed the measure, saying: “Californians won't have to worry about the legislature repealing key privacy rights, will have stronger rights to personally enforce privacy laws, and will have the protection of a well-staffed and funded European-style privacy commission to protect their rights.”

Who Is Against Prop 24?

But not everyone thinks Proposition 24 is a good idea. In fact, a lot of people, spanning the entire political spectrum, are very much against its passage. Conservative and liberal groups alike—including the American Civil Liberties Union, the League of Women Voters of California, Consumer Federation of California, the California Alliance for Retired Americans, Consumer Action, Public Citizen, Californians for Privacy Now, and the Center for Digital Democracy — are rallying together against Proposition 24.

Their reasoning? Well, they have a lot of complaints. One is that the California Consumer Privacy Act is so new that they think it may be best to wait a little bit to see how successful it is before instituting any new changes. A second, more pressing complaint is that many believe Proposition 24 would actually hurt consumers by delaying a rule that allows workers to find out what information their employers are collecting about them, making it easier for businesses to charge more (i.e., punish consumers) who choose to not let them sell their data and allowing tech companies to get your data when you leave the state.

There are obviously pros and cons to Proposition 24. Hopefully, this helps you make a more informed decision on how you personally feel regarding these expanded consumer privacy laws.

About the Author


Headshot for author Jemima McEvoy

Jemima is a journalist who enjoys reporting on business, particularly small business and entrepreneurship.

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