Lawmakers move to limit companies that trade your data

Lawmakers propose comprehensive data privacy laws that would give consumers more control over personal data

By Cameron Sheppard

Washington Newspaper Publishers Association

Washington lawmakers have proposed groundbreaking legislation that aims to give consumers more control over their digitally collected personal data and image.

Senate Bill 6281, or the Washington Privacy Act, would allow consumers to access, correct, delete and easily transfer their personal data collected and controlled by companies.

Specifically, the bill would apply to companies that process the personal data of 100,000 consumers or more, or derive over 50 percent of gross revenue from the sale of personal data and processes the personal data of at least 25,000 consumers.

One of the bill’s 16 co-sponsors, Sen. Reuven Carlyle (D-Seattle) said consumers also should have the right to opt out of targeted ads, a provision included in the bill.

“We have really tried to be thoughtful and respectful of the needs of business and industry to operationalize this program so that it is not just providing a layer of burden on top of them,” Carlyle said.

SB 6281 also contains provisions to regulate the use of facial recognition technology by private companies to digitally analyze, identify and track individuals.

The bill stipulates that consumers must consent to having their image processed and used by facial recognition software, unless an individual’s image is being processed for security or public safety purposes under a reasonable suspicion of a crime.

Senate Bill 6280 is a related measure that outlines the rules and regulations that local and state governments would have to follow when using facial recognition technology for public safety and law enforcement. The bill would not require an individual’s consent before their image is processed by facial recognition programs, but it does require internal accountability reports on governmental use of facial recognition technology.

SB 6280 also would allow independent tests to be conducted on government-used facial recognition software to ensure that the technology is not being used in an unfair or discriminatory way.

“I feel like we have developed a great relationship amongst many stakeholders to find that path where we understand how we hold people accountable if it is used incorrectly,” said Sen. Joe Nguyen (D-White Center), a co-sponsor of both bills. “But also, how we alleviate concerns for communities in terms of what it should not be able to do.”