Right to Know Act would let consumers find out who has their data, get a copy of it

Update: AB 1291 has been made into a 2-year bill.

Most of us have no idea how companies are gathering and sharing our personal data. Brokers are collecting massive amounts of personal facts about Americans from sources they are not required to disclose. Digital giants like Facebook are teaming up with data miners, privacy policies can change in a heartbeat, and even savvy users have trouble fending off digital trackers that collect our interests and web histories.

CFC is supporting a new bill that will bring transparency and access to digital data exchanges. AB 1291 (Lowenthal), also known as the Right to Know Act, would require a company to give users access to the personal data the company has stored on them ‘ as well as a list of all the other companies with whom that original company has shared the users’ personal data ‘ when a user requests it. It would cover Californians and would apply to offline and online companies.

Under current California law, customers can contact companies and ask for an accounting of disclosures for direct marketing purposes, a list of what companies have your personal data so they can send you junk mail, spam, or call you on the phone, and general facts about what types of data were disclosed.

While current law provides information about data exchanged for direct marketing, the Right to Know Act would update existing transparency law to ensure that users could track the flow of their data from online interactions, including with online advertisers, data brokers, and third party apps.

The bill helps consumers, regulators, policymakers and the world at large shine a light into the largely hidden, highly lucrative world of the personal data mining economy.  It gives everyday users an opportunity to know how their personal data is flowing from one company to another.

This bill mimics the rights of data access already available to users in Europe, which means that most of the big tech companies should already have systems in place to facilitate user access.

The Right to Know (AB 1291) hearing is currently scheduled for Assembly Judiciary on May 7.

Supporters of AB 1291 (partial list):

American Civil Liberties Union of California (co-sponsor)
Electronic Frontier Foundation (co-sponsor)
Consumer Federation of California
National Organization for Women California
California Public Interest Research Group
Consumer Action
Privacy Rights Clearinghouse
World Privacy Forum
Consumer Watchdog