Techwire: California Initiative Could Change Data Collection

January 25, 2018

An address on a cable contract, the location of a cellphone, a store purchase or a simple Internet search for a vacation spot. All of that information about a consumer can be unknowingly collected and sold by businesses — at least for now.

A proposed ballot initiative aims to give Californians the power to find out what personal information a business has gathered about them and tell them to stop — an approach critics say could stifle commerce but privacy experts say doesn’t go far enough.

“The reality is most of us have a vast digital file being collected about us,” Alastair Mactaggart, a lead sponsor of the California Consumer Privacy Act of 2018, told Techwire in an interview this week.

“There’s a lot of risk for Californians,” he said.

At issue is how businesses — including Internet service providers, Google, Facebook and large brick-and-mortar corporations — use the information they collect about their customers. The information, which can be sold to third parties, is a valuable commodity and a tool for businesses that want to target products to someone’s preferences and needs.

It’s a broad and complicated issue of privacy rights that goes beyond just a person’s home address or Social Security number. It involves the collection of a vast amount of information used to create profiles, trends, demographics and other data sets.

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