The fight for the “Right to Know” goes on

by Nicole A. Ozer , ACLU Northern California

Assemblymember Bonnie Lowenthal (D-Long Beach) has announced that the California Right to Know Act (AB 1291) will not be voted on this year but she will keep working to pass it next year.

It’s no secret that tech industry groups have been trying to use their political muscle to trample the Right to Know Act. The fact that companies are lobbying so hard to keep us in the dark about what’s really happening to our personal information just underscores the importance of the Right to Know Act. If companies are fighting so hard against this basic transparency bill and are scared to even tell us what’s happening to our personal information, they must be doing a lot of things that we wouldn’t like.

But Assemblymember Lowenthal knows this bill is important and stood firm in her commitment to the privacy, financial security, and personal safety of Californians. She was unwilling to bend to pressure to modify the bill in ways that would have undermined its impact.  While it is disappointing that the Right to Know Act will not be passed by the California legislature this year, it is important that the bill will continue into next year with all of its transparency provisions.

The bill has already been widely praised. The San Francisco Chronicle’s recent editorial said this ‘privacy bill is on right track’ and the San Jose Mercury News editorial said its ‘intent is spot on. The Legislature should work out the kinks and send this bill to the governor.’ Troy Wolverton of the Mercury News hit the nail on the head when he called out the industry for their opposition and noted that ‘the reason they’re putting up such a fuss is because they don’t want you to know just how much information they’re collecting or who they’re selling it to.’ And we agree with that this bill is ‘long-overdue’ and ‘an important, if modest, first step.’

It may take a bit more time for the Right to Know Act to make it through the legislative process. But Californians want the right to know how their personal information is being collected and shared, and companies are not going to be able to continue to keep us in the dark about what’s really happening. We look forward to our continued work with California lawmakers and the diverse coalition in support of this bill to pass the Right to Know Act.  

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