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Internet Privacy Deal Nears As Initiative Qualifies For California's November Ballot

Ben Adler / Capital Public Radio

Ben Adler / Capital Public Radio

An initiative that would significantly expand the online privacy rights of consumers has qualified for California’s November ballot, but a deal to avert an expensive campaign over the measure appears to be gaining momentum in the state Legislature.

The initiative would allow Internet users to learn what companies like Facebook and Google know about them – and stop the sharing or selling of their data. The Secretary of State’s office said the measure qualified for the ballot on Monday.

A possible compromise first emerged late last week. The bill, AB 375 by Asm. Ed Chau (D-Monterey Park), is the product of a deal between the initiative’s proponent, San Francisco real estate developer Alastair Mactaggart, and a pair of Democratic lawmakers.

“I believe that what we came up with is really good public policy. It’ll be the best privacy law in the country,” Sen. Bob Hertzberg (D-Van Nuys), the other lawmaker involved in crafting the deal, told Capital Public Radio on Monday. “We’ve included the right to delete...we’ve included issues related to Cambridge Analytica, we’ve included protection of children — a number of things that are really smart about advancing privacy policy.”

After a weekend full of meetings, negotiations and proposals that at one point had industry groups crying foul, final amendments went public Monday morning, leaving opponents to decide whether to back the legislation or spend tens of millions of dollars campaigning against the initiative this fall.

There was no immediate word from opponents on what course of action they might take. But Hertzberg said he’ll bring the bill up for a vote Thursday, even if the industry still opposes it.

The industry doesn’t like the bill, but it likes the initiative even less. But because the bill only needs majority support, there were indications inside the Capitol Monday that the bill might well pass the Legislature despite industry opposition.

The agreement must pass both houses and be signed by Gov. Jerry Brown by Thursday, the deadline for initiative proponents to withdraw measures from the November ballot.

 Election 2018

Ben Adler

Capitol Bureau Chief

Capitol Bureau Chief Ben Adler first became a public radio listener in the car on his way to preschool – though not necessarily by choice. Now, he leads Capital Public Radio’s state Capitol coverage, which airs on NPR stations across California.  Read Full Bio 

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