Unintended consequences of new privacy law?

Late last month, the Legislature enacted a 9,900-word bill purporting to protect Californians’ personal and financial information from being revealed without their permission.

This legislation was hastily drafted to persuade San Francisco developer and privacy advocate Alastair Mactaggart to drop an initiative ballot measure on the same issue that he had qualified for the November ballot, one that the state’s powerful technology industry opposed.

Mactaggart embraced the legislative alternative, thereby averting what would have been a very expensive battle, and those in the Capitol hailed it as a great victory for consumers and the political process. But was it?

For one thing, as CALmatters’ Dan Morain points out, it applies only to the collection and dissemination of the data by private businesses and exempts state and local governments, thereby continuing the state’s practice of imposing laws on others while exempting itself from obeying those same laws.

So while businesses that violate its provisions could be sued for truly stupendous amounts of damages, governments would be immune, even though government databanks are just as susceptible to hacking as those in private business.

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