It’s time for Washington to pass strong privacy legislation!

The civil rights, immigrant rights, and civil liberties groups in the Tech Equity Coalition are focusing on three privacy bills this session:

๐Ÿ’œ Peopleโ€™s Privacy Act (PPA) – Rep. Kloba’s HB 1433 ๐Ÿ’œ

โ“ Foundational Data Privacy Act (FDPA) – Reps. Slatter and Berg’s HB 1850ย โ“

๐Ÿ‘Ž๐Ÿฝ Bad Washington Privacy Act (Bad WPA) – Sen. Carlyle’s SB 5062 ๐Ÿ‘Ž๐Ÿฝ

ACLU of Washington’s Data Privacy Guiding Principles and Bill Comparison Chart has a quick summary of how the bills stack up against the minimum standards privacy legislation needs to meet to provide meaningful protection.ย  A quick summary:

  • ๐Ÿ’œ The People’s Privacy Act ๐Ÿ’œ shines.ย  This isn’t surprising, because it was written by privacy experts, working with the communities most harmed by data abuses.ย 
  • ๐Ÿ‘Ž๐Ÿฝ The Bad Washington Privacy Actย  ๐Ÿ‘Ž๐Ÿฝ is bad .ย  This also isn’t surprising, because it was written working with tech companies who make money by exploiting our privacy.ย 
  • โ“The Foundational Privacy Act โ“is in between.ย  It has some improvements over the Bad WPA, but there’s still a long way to go.ย  ACLU of Washington has detailed feedback on the current version of the FDPA with recommendations for improvements.

Last year, Tech Equity Coalition and their allies kept the Bad WPA from passing in Washington.ย  Virginia was not as fortunate; an Amazon lobbyist gave an old version of the Bad WPA to a legislator there, the legislature weakened it, and quickly passed the Even Worse Virginia Privacy Act.ย  Colorado also passed a version of the Bad WPA.ย 

The People’s Privacy Act isn’t scheduled for a hearing, so the most likely path to passing something good this year is to strengthen FDPA significantly.ย  Legislatively, there are two possible ways to do this.ย 

  • Adopt the People’s Privacy Act as a “striking amendment”, replacing the current text of the FDPA;
  • Make specific changes to the FDPA to bring it into alignment with the principles and address enough of the areas where it currently falls short that it meets the minimum bar and provides meaningful privacy protections.ย  This is a more incremental step, but with the time pressure of a short session might be more palatable to legislators.

Of course, tech companies don’t like either of those approaches.ย  Instead, they’ll say we should pass the Bad WPA, or get rid of the FDPA’s improvements and pass that, to “bring Washington into alignment” with other states that fail to protect their residents’ privacy.ย  From tech companies’ perspective, the Bad WPA provides a good “balance” between their desire to exploit our personal data and legislators’ desire to say they’ve done something.ย  Amazon and Microsoft have a lot of influence in Olympia, so it will be a tough battle.ย 

To get the legislature to pass something good, we need to convince legislators that people are paying attention — and that it’s not enough to pass the Bad WPA.ย  We also need to help them understand where the Bad WPA, and current version of the FDPA, fall short.ย 

Amazon and Microsoft and their friends have deep pockets and a lot of influence in Olympia, so it will be a tough battle — but there are a lot more of us than there are of them. In 2020 and 2021 the fight went on until the last day of the session, and we expect the same this year. So fasten your seat belts, it should be a wild ride!

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