California has shown itself to be a national privacy leader. But there is still work to do. That’s why EFF is proud to sponsor two bills in this year’s legislature—both with the co-sponsorship of Privacy Rights Clearinghouse—that would strengthen privacy protections in the state. These bills are focused on two particularly pernicious forms of data collection. Both will be heard on April 5 in the California Senate Judiciary Committee, and we’re asking Californians to tell committee members to pass these bills.
Advancing Biometric Privacy
Authored by Senator Bob Wieckowski, S.B. 1189 requires private entities to obtain your opt-in consent before collecting your biometric information. Biometric information is incredibly sensitive and, by its very nature, is tied immutably to our identities. While you can change a password, you can’t change easily change your face, the rhythm of your walk, or the ridges of your fingerprints. Despite this, some companies collect and share this information without asking first—by, for example, taking faceprints from every person who walks into a store. They may then go on to share or sell that information.
This is wrong. People should have control over who they trust with their biometric information. And companies must be held accountable if they break that trust. Like the landmark Illinois Biometric Information Privacy Act (BIPA), S.B. 1189 gives individuals the right to sue companies that violate the law. This is the same type of provision that allowed Facebook users in Illinois to take the company to task for collecting their faceprints without permission. That case ended in a $650 million settlement for Illinois’ Facebook users.
This bill has the support of a broad range of both California and national organizations active on surveillance issues, which speaks to the importance of implementing this privacy protection. The Greenlining Institute, Media Alliance, Oakland Privacy, the Consumer Federation of California, the Consumer Federation of America, Consumer Action and Fairplay are all in support. If you’d like to join them in supporting this bill, take our action to support S.B. 1189.
Speak up for California Biometric Privacy
Protecting Student Privacy
EFF is also proud to sponsor S.B. 1172, the Student Test Taker Privacy Protection Act (STTPPA), a first-of-its-kind piece of legislation aimed at curbing some of the worst practices of remote proctoring companies. Authored by Senator Dr. Richard Pan, this bill places limits on what proctoring companies collect and provides students the right to their day in court for privacy violations. There has been a 500% increase in the use of these proctoring tools during the pandemic—in 2020, more than half of higher education institutions used remote proctoring services and another 23% were considering doing so.
Proctoring companies have also suffered data breaches, and federal lawmakers and California’s Supreme Court have raised questions about proctoring company practices. But no meaningful data protections have been put into place to protect the privacy of test takers. Given their widespread use, proctoring companies must be held accountable, and this bill will do that.
The STTPPA directs proctoring companies not to collect, use, retain, or disclose test takers’ personal information except as strictly necessary to provide proctoring services. If they do not, the student has the opportunity to take the proctoring company to court. This simple bill gives those directly harmed by privacy violations—test takers—the opportunity to protect their data and privacy.
Leading student and privacy advocates have lent their support to the bill, including: Center for Digital Democracy, Citizens Privacy Coalition of Santa Clara County (CPCSCC), Common Sense, Fairplay, The Greenlining Institute, The Parent Coalition for Student Privacy, Media Alliance, and Oakland Privacy.
Speak up for California Student Privacy
If you believe that companies should have limits on the information they collect and that people should have ways to hold them accountable, please tell the California Senate Judiciary Committee to vote “yes” on S.B. 1189 and S.B. 1172.