Comment: Your digital privacy rights need a stronger shield

Legislation in the state House would outline rights and establish a commission to enforce them.

By April Berg and Vandana Slatter / For The Herald

Any time we are online, information is continually being generated about us. Technology can and should be a force for good. Unfortunately, using smart phones or the internet today often means giving up control of incredibly personal information.

Let’s say you’ve asked a website to stop using your personal data, but they didn’t stop. Now what?

In recent years, a large national big-box retailer was exposed as directing ads to women who were very early in their pregnancies- based on the tracking history of pregnant women’s buying patterns. This is information a woman’s family may not even know about; until they see the pop-up add for diapers. And this week state Attorney General Bob Ferguson announced he is filing a lawsuit against one of the largest tech firms for secretly tracking consumer locations. Why should giant corporations be allowed to control or sell our most personal information?

We are rapidly learning that our data is the raw material that propels the work of the technology industry, but we don’t have clear options in Washington state to protect our digital privacy today. In fact, many people think there is no privacy online anymore. We often resign ourselves to consenting to privacy policies if only to stay connected to our work, family and world. Technology has become an integral part of our lives but if your private information is being sold or shared, it can put your job, credit or even your health at risk.

Privacy does exist and we can do better.

Everyone in Washington state deserves digital privacy rights. That’s why we’re introducing House Bill 1850, a new proposal that protects your rights and provides the foundational framework for a safe digital infrastructure.

Our legislation empowers you to know when your data is being controlled by a private entity, how you can access and delete personal data, how to opt-out of data collection used for targeted ads, and how to revoke consent.

This legislation also creates a Consumer Data Privacy Commission which would investigate and enforce privacy rights, the same way we do with utilities in Washington state. For example, power customers can turn to the Utilities and Transportation Commission to remedy billing, disconnection and service issues. That model provides a blueprint to ensure the security of our personal data without the high barrier of time, money and privilege.

As legislators representing areas of our state with large communities of color and immigrant populations, we are committed to bringing working people, people of color, rural Washingtonians and older neighbors to the table to say, “don’t forget about us.” We can empower all people by creating a foundation of fundamental privacy rights; so they are accessible to all residents.

Privacy can’t exist just for the privileged few.

Many privacy advocates, and even the tech industry, agree that regulations are vital. But, for the last three years, legislators have tried but have not been able to agree on a Senate-based policy that did not include a commission. Consumer protection and regulation is a key role that government can play when the odds are stacked against us. States like California have already taken strong privacy action including an agency, as has the entire European Union; we know that we can do it here, too.

Yet this won’t happen without a fight for strong consumer protections with clear “rules of the road” for tech companies.

If you support stronger digital privacy rights in Washington state, please take a moment to stand up, speak out and share your story. Call the Legislative Hotline at 800-562-6000 or contact your local lawmakers to learn more and to support House Bill 1850 to protect your digital privacy.

State Rep. April Berg, D-Mill Creek, represents the 44th Legislative District. She also serves on the Everett School Board and formerly served on the Edmonds School Board and City of Mill Creek Planning Commission. In the House of Representatives, she is vice chair of the Finance Committee and is a member of Education Committee and Local Government Committee.

Stte Rep. Vandana Slatter, D-Bellevue, represents the 48th Legislative District. She chairs the College and Workforce Development Committee and is a member of the Environment and Energy Committee and Transportation Committee.

Talk to us

> Give us your news tips.

> Send us a letter to the editor.

> More Herald contact information.

More in Opinion

Editorial cartoons for Tuesday, May 21

A sketchy look at the news of the day.… Continue reading

The vessel Tonga Chief, a 10-year-old Singaporean container ship, is moored at the Port of Everett Seaport in November, 2023, in Everett. (Ryan Berry / The Herald file photo)
Editorial: Leave port tax issue for campaign, not the ballot

Including “taxing district” on ballot issue to expand the Port of Everett’s boundaries is prejudicial.

Snohomish County Councilmembers Nate Nehring, left, and Jared Mead, speaking, take turns moderating a panel including Tulip Tribes Chairwoman Teri Gobin, Stanwood Mayor Sid Roberts and Lynnwood Mayor Christine Frizzell during the Building Bridges Summit on Monday, Dec. 4, 2023, at Western Washington University Everett in Everett, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Editorial: Candidates, voters have campaign promises to make

Two county officials’ efforts to improve political discourse skills are expanding to youths and adults.

Ross Douthat: This trial isn’t going to cost Trump many voters

To most observers, a conviction will seem either a minor offense or an overreach of prosecution.

Kristof: Israel can abandon hope if it invades Rafah

Further deaths of civilians to get at Hamas is likely to create a new generation of Palestinian fighters.

Krugman: Trump only Exhibit A for the pettiness of the powerful

When wealth no longer satisfies, the powerful elite look for adulation, to the disadvantage of all others.

Editorial cartoons for Monday, May 20

A sketchy look at the news of the day.… Continue reading

Charles Blow: Trump remains at war with the U.S. Constitution

His threats of deportation and violence against peaceful protesters, though vague, can’t be ignored.

Choice in November is between democracy, autocracy

The country belongs to the people and in November they can choose… Continue reading

Opposing Israel’s Netanyahu isn’t antisemitic

I support the demonstrations against Israel’s Benjamin Netayahu. Counter to what the… Continue reading

Trump is being pursued in court because he can win

It is so obvious that President Biden, the Democrats and much of… Continue reading

Support local journalism

If you value local news, make a gift now to support the trusted journalism you get in The Daily Herald. Donations processed in this system are not tax deductible.