Abine, The Online Privacy Company, announces its support in favor of the California Privacy Rights Act (also known as “Proposition 24”) which will be put to a popular vote among Californians this upcoming November.
While it may not be surprising that an online privacy company is in favor of better data privacy controls, the reason for Abine’s support is not because CPRA legislation directly benefits DeleteMe, Blur, or any of Abine’s privacy services. Rather, our support is based on more fundamental concerns about the state of consumer privacy, and in this post we’ll walk you through the argument for why CPRA is important and necessary legislation that comes on the heels of the nation’s first modern state privacy law, the CCPA.
But first, a story…
The “Death of Civics” and Other Well-Intentioned Lies
A few days ago, I spoke to an older woman who was waxing nostalgic about her time in civics class back when she was a young student. In these classes young people were educated on the important topics of government process, voting, and the overall evolution of the U.S. political system.
Sadly, she lamented, civics classes are no longer widely taught today, and students aren’t given this vital knowledge about the government. This, she hypothesized, must be the reason for the massive decline in voter turnout, and probably also explains our lower level of political involvement on important issues.
Without looking deeper at the facts, it’s easy to imagine that this kindly woman is correct. But while it sounds reasonable enough and she is probably well-intentioned, her entire premise is just flat wrong. U.S. presidential voter turnout data shows no decline over time. It turns out that even without extensive education into the ins and outs of the political system, people are still politically active enough to vote.
This, ultimately, is an example of the bigger problem we need to understand. Too many well-meaning people make and blithely repeat reasonable-sounding, false statements and the rest of us just accept them as the truth.
Enough Excuses, It’s Time for Change
If you believed this woman at first, it illustrates one of the problems of our current political and media environment. There is too much “noise” in the stories we’re hearing, and having instantly available web data and access to an endless barrage of opinions has made it worse. There’s too much data, it’s too hard to get beyond the targeted filter bubble echo-chambers of our own beliefs; there’s a schizophrenic pendulum of trust and distrust of all the voices telling us their truths. We either double-down on beliefs without thinking or, worse perhaps, we believe “it’s too complicated to know for sure,” shut down and do nothing.
An Entrepreneur’s Approach to the CPRA
This brings me to what I’ll call an “entrepreneurs approach” to recommending the CPRA.
It’s cliche to say technology is moving too fast for legal and political systems to keep up. The corollary question is: if this is so obvious, what is anyone doing about it?
As an entrepreneur, I know a little secret most people don’t really come to grips with: you learn by actively doing. Yogi Berra said, “you can’t think and hit the ball at the same time.” This “active learning by doing” is just the approach the CCPA – and now the CPRA – have taken. Get out and do something. Force not just conversation and debate but conversation and debate informed by real-world consequential feedback.
Abine, as a first-mover and long time leader in comprehensive consumer privacy protection, and myself as a founder and entrepreneur – support the CPRA because we support privacy-in-action in Government today. We believe for real change to happen the world needs both a privacy industry (with companies like Abine, DuckDuckGo, Protonmail, and Brave) coupled with a Government-in-action approach to privacy legislation.
Will today’s big web companies ever support true impactful privacy reforms? No. They’re built at the core to profit from human data. So goes modern business and markets. Now this may be totally OK, but we need to acknowledge it, plainly. Companies who make money primarily from consumer data treat humans as products. They cannot strike a balance on privacy legislation. They cannot self-regulate. And they will do what’s necessary to not comply with any privacy constraints to their business.
CPRA Made Simple (Even if You Didn’t Take Civics)
So, if you’re too young to have been offered civics class, too busy to read 50 pages of the CPRA law (it’s frankly awful to parse), here’s the real choice as we see it on California Proposition 24:
YES – Vote for more privacy-in-action in Government
NO – Vote for more standard industry debate and political process
Both ways of voting are imperfect. The CPRA is riddled with problems – both evident and unforeseen – as is the standard political process and debate around privacy which has resulted in 20 years of unchecked privacy-trashing technology, data profiteering and manipulation.
It’s likely Americans are going to have to get used to more imperfect choices in many areas. While not ideal, it pays to think clearly about them. Civics education or not, luckily, your vote still matters.