WASHINGTON — Discomfort over the collection and sale of personal data led to a flurry of consumer data privacy bills in 2019, as state legislatures vied to follow California’s lead in giving users more control of personal information.
But the legislative year ended with more of a whimper than a bang as well-funded tech giants and other business concerns rushed to oppose the bills, and even California is scrambling to fix details of its data privacy law before it takes effect in January.
Of the 24 states that considered data privacy legislation this year, only Illinois, Maine and Nevada enacted new laws.
There will be even more pressure for legislatures to act next year: Since sessions ended in most states, a $5 billion fine against Facebook and a $700 million settlement with Equifax over data breaches have brought even more public attention to the issue, as have continued revelations about election manipulations by Cambridge Analytica, which used personal data to profile voters.
Despite enthusiasm for more privacy rules by legislators and their constituents, many states found themselves bogged down this year in both the details of high tech operations and industry complaints, said Pam Greenberg, a senior fellow for the National Conference of State Legislatures who collected information on state consumer data privacy legislation.
“The issue is complex,” Greenberg said. “And legislators are concerned about the impact of privacy legislation on both consumers and business.”
The Internet Association, representing tech giants such as Google, Amazon and Facebook, has lobbied for a national approach, arguing that one federal standard like Europe’s 2018 General Data Protection Regulation would be fairer and stronger.
States should “allow for a national privacy law to take shape that applies to the entire country,” said Robert Callahan, the association’s vice president of state government affairs.
“If a person is video chatting with a grandmother in Florida, while they’re in New York, they both should benefit from the same privacy protections,” Callahan said.
Many states are waiting for last-minute wrangling over details in the California law before setting their own policies, said Mary Stone Ross, a former CIA analyst who as president of the Californians for Consumer Privacy helped draft that state’s legislation as a ballot initiative. The group agreed last year to drop its push for a ballot question in return for a similar state law passed by the legislature.
California passed a bill under time pressure in June 2018, giving consumers the right to see any of their data collected by a company or website, and the ability to opt out of having it sold to third parties. Then-Gov. Jerry Brown, a Democrat, signed it into law. But many amendments fine-tuning the law are still pending with a deadline of September for the legislature to pass them.
Although last-minute changes threaten “death by a thousand paper cuts,” the…