A coalition of consumer protection groups and privacy advocates have joined together to call for improvements to a recently-passed piece of legislation in Virginia that purports to protect privacy, but which advocates suggest is actually a giveaway to big business.
The Virginia Citizens Consumer Council, Consumer Federation of America, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, Privacy Rights Clearinghouse, and U.S. PIRG sent a letter to Virginia Governor Ralph Northam urging him to veto the Consumer Data Protection Act (CDPA) or to consider adding a reenactment clause, which would send the bill back to the legislature for reconsideration in January 2022 because it falls far short of adequately protecting Virginians’ privacy and allows unfair discrimination against those who exercise the few rights it provides.
“As is typical, Virginia has taken a business-first perspective that codifies business-designed obstacles to consumers having meaningful control of their personal information. This is not privacy protection and will just frustrate consumers,” said Irene Leech, President of the Virginia Citizens Consumer Council.
The groups identified a number of potential problems with the legislation, including:
· Adopts an “opt-out” framework that disempowers consumers and poses equity concerns.
· Lacks a strong data minimization requirement that limits data collection and sharing to what is reasonably necessary to provide the services consumers have requested.
· Does not cover personal information gleaned about consumers from sources such as social media if consumers have failed to adequately restrict it.
· Provides no overall right for consumers to avoid being profiled.
· Would have no effect on the business models of companies such as Facebook and Google, who profit from tracking consumers’ activities on their websites and target them for ads on behalf of other companies.
The advocates also noted:
The CDPA allows companies to charge consumers higher prices or provide them with a lower quality of goods or services if they have exercised their rights — for instance, to opt-out of seeing targeted advertising — creating two classes of Virginians; those who can pay to protect their privacy, and those who cannot.
Previously, the Consumer Federation of American raised concerns about a possible national trend of legislation labeled as protecting privacy but actually designed to enhance the position of big business and big tech firms.
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