• Supporting changes to state Consumer Privacy Act

    Commentary from Glenn Morris, President/CEO, Santa Maria Valley Chamber

    From when we wake up in the morning until we go to bed, we rely on technology to make our lives easier and more accessible than ever before. We rely on the apps on our mobile phones to order lunch, navigate directions, make doctor appointments, order groceries, browse items to buy, or read interesting and free articles or blogs.

    While we have all enjoyed the benefits of technology, there has been growing concern about personal data privacy. Every day in the news we see headlines about privacy. That’s why the State Legislature adopted wide-sweeping legislation known as the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) last year. However, the CCPA was rushed through the legislative process in just one week – to avert a ballot initiative that had many flaws and would have been virtually impossible to later amend.

    It is no surprise, given how quickly this law passed, that it needs some fixes to avoid unintended consequences. Thankfully, the Legislature delayed implementation of this law by one year so they could make legislative fixes to ensure the law works the way it was intended.

    It may seem odd that the Santa Maria Valley Chamber of Commerce is weighing in on a law that appears to be aimed at global tech giants. Unfortunately, the CCPA is so broad, it applies to businesses of all sizes, across every industry. Even our local coffee shops or taquerias could be required to comply with every tenet of the law. We need to make some adjustments to make the CCPA work better for these businesses and for consumers.

    First, a change that impacts nearly every Californian – the ability to choose to join loyalty programs for restaurant meals, hotel stays, shopping, or airlines. Without Assembly Bill 846, businesses may no longer be able to offer loyalty or reward points to California residents. This is just not right. Many of us rely on these discounts for groceries, lower gas prices, or to help with the family vacation. Small businesses also rely on them to provide benefits for their loyal customers. This must be fixed.

    In addition, there needs to be a fix to ensure that the CCPA does not apply to employees of a business in the same way it does for a customer. Right now, under the new law, there is no distinction between employee or customer. If this is not clarified, it will create a significant, additional expense for businesses. It would also lead to bad outcomes – if an employee was accused of sexual harassment, they could request to have that information deleted.

    Further, aspects of the CCPA are actually bad for privacy. Right now, anyone could request that a business provide them with the personal data of someone else in their household without the consent of that individual. Legislation to fix this and other important clarifications, such as Assembly Bill 25 and Assembly Bill 873, should be supported by our elected officials.

    Finally, under the CCPA, businesses of all sizes must staff a 1-800 number for consumers to call and exercise their privacy rights. Many small businesses do not have the resources for this. Assembly Bill 1546 would remove this requirement and enable a business to choose to provide both an email and mailing address instead for CCPA requests.

    With these sensible fixes, the CCPA will be stronger and will be able to make privacy work for everyone. Without them, there will be significant, unintended consequences for consumers and for businesses. We are thankful so many legislators are working on these fixes, and we encourage our Santa Barbara County representatives to support them.

    This guest commentary originally appeared in the Santa Maria Time. Article available in the opinion section at www.santamariatimes.com