Grasssroots activists have been suggesting improvements in HB 1850, in testimony at the hearing, emails to the Civil Rights & Judiciary Committee, and meetings with the bill’s sponsor. Here’s a letter 20 activists sent the committee last night, in preparation for today’s exec session.
Chair Hansen, Ranking Member Walsh, and members of the House Civil Rights & Judiciary Committee,
We want to thank everybody who is working to improve HB 1850. We realize there are a range of opinions, and appreciate seeing members’ various proposals for improvements.
The Proposed Substitute (H-2453.2/22) appears to make several significant improvements. For example, the modification of Section 3 (33) is much cleaner, and no longer excludes data shared between affiliates and as a result of a merger or acquisition. The revised definition of targeted advertising in Section 3 (36) also appears substantially stronger. We look forward to legal analyses of these and other changes to understand their impact in more detail.
However, this substitute version still does not address some fundamental issues. As you’ve heard, making the bill fully opt-in is critical for seniors, immigrants, people with disabilities, people with limited English skills, and other vulnerable populations. Allowing stronger local legislation by removing the pre-emption clause is also a top concern, and certainly one raised by many immigrant advocacy groups. The private right of action still needs to be strengthened in order to provide a real enforcement mechanism.
We’ve also identified at least one change we very strongly oppose: excluding reputational harm and emotional distress from the definition of “actual damages.” Consider the situation where an ed-tech company like Naviance shares a students sexual orientation with colleges without consent. If the college mails a flyer prominently displaying “Attend our University – We welcome LGBTQ students like you to join us!”, then that could out the closeted student to their abusive parents. But if “emotional distress” is excluded, what are the “actual damages” here?
We appreciate the work that went into drafting this substitute bill. Given our limited time to analyze the changes in detail, we are not taking a position on the proposed substitute.
We do have positions on several of the other amendments.
- We strongly SUPPORT Ranking Member Walsh’s AMH 219 and 229, removing the exemption for non-profits. Last week’s Politico story Suicide hotline shares data withfor-profit spinoff, raising ethical questions highlights the importance of including non-profits in any privacy regulation. Colorado’s data privacy law already covers non-profits. There’s no reason that Washingtonians should get less protection than Coloradans.
- We strongly OPPOSE Rep. Ybarra’s AMH 216 and 234, removing the private right of action. The private right of action needs to be strengthened, not removed.
Some of the other amendments appear to strengthen the bill, and others appear to weaken it. We haven’t had time to fully analyze those amendments and so are not taking positions.
Thank you again for your ongoing hard work, and we look forward to continuing the discussions, with the goal of passing strong privacy legislation this session. As the bill moves forward, we ask each of you to support amendments that provide stronger protections, and oppose any amendments that weaken the bill. It’s not enough to just pass something. We need privacy legislation that provides meaningful protections for Washingtonians, and aligns with the principles that the Tech Equity Coalition has outlined in their mail to you.