Rep. Norma Smith introduces package of consumer-focused, online data privacy legislation

Rep. Norma Smith is sponsoring five bills in the 2020 legislative session that would address online data privacy for consumers. The ranking member on the House Innovation, Technology and Economic Development Committee wants to empower consumers, while holding corporations accountable for their policies.

“So much of what we’ve seen in Washington state is corporate centric. The consumer needs to be the focus of meaningful data privacy bills. We need to provide consumers real rights and access to justice to exercise their rights,” said Smith, R-Clinton. “The bills I have introduced are built on consumer empowerment, corporate responsibility and strong enforcement.”  

House Bill 2364 would enact a Charter of Personal Data Rights (CPDR). The legislation would establish rights to know what information a business has about a consumer, access that data and receive a copy in a format that allows for portability of data, correct and delete information, and opt out of data sales.

“This measure has strong enforcement elements that maintain the expectation that Washingtonians who suffer a violation of their rights can have their day in court,” said Smith. “Other bills say that only the state attorney general can sue a business for violations of data rights. This would rob consumers of access to justice.”

Smith’s bill is different from other legislation in that it has a broad definition of “personal information,” with the fewest exceptions to what data is exempted and what businesses are exempted. It also has the strongest corporate responsibility provisions, including imposing a duty to have a comprehensive data security program and a duty of businesses to operate in good faith and with diligence to safeguard privacy rights.

House Bill 2363 would declare that each person owns and has an exclusive property right in the person’s biometric identifiers.  

“This bill asks a fundamental question that we should all care deeply about: Who owns the unique, biometric identifiers that make you, you?” said Smith. “My bill answers this question: You do.” 

Biometric technology like facial recognition allows computer systems to automatically recognize an individual by finding a match in a database. This is sensitive data. Unlike a password or driver’s license photo, if a person’s face template is hacked – he or she cannot replace it. This makes it critical that everyone remain in control of who can capture and store that information.

House Bill 1503, introduced last year, would require all data brokers in Washington state to register annually with the state’s Office of Privacy and Data Protection, pay a registration fee, and provide information regarding how they collect, store and sell personal information. The legislation would also require data brokers to disclose their opt-out procedures.

“Data brokers – companies that consumers have never had a relationship with – are buying and selling data about each of us, while creating more risk of data breaches that could result in identity theft. By registering them, and requiring some basic disclosures, my bill increases transparency and accountability,” said Smith. “This is important now. And it will be even more important in the future as technology evolves.”

House Bill 2366 would make the position of the state’s Chief Privacy Officer a statewide elected position, serving four-year terms, without changing the duties of the office.

“It’s important that voters have an opportunity to elect a person who would most effectively advocate for their privacy interests,” said Smith. “This person should have the authority and confidence of Washingtonians when he or she works with the Legislature on privacy laws and best practices for state agencies.” 

House Bill 2365 would require consumer devices sold in Washington state to have a simple-to-recognize sticker to notify consumers if the device gathers data about them and transmits that data to a third party. The bill follows up on recent warnings regarding consumer products, including the recent warning issued by the FBI on smart TVs and their vulnerability to hacking.

“My previous work on privacy legislation has had significant bipartisan support,” said Smith. “I look forward to once again building a strong coalition on behalf of consumers.”
The 2020 legislative session will begin on January 13 and run 60 consecutive days.

Relevant stories:

Across the entire state, WA voters rank homelessness as the No. 1 issue lawmakers must address (Crosscut | January 9, 2020)

  • “A whopping 84% of respondents said they support strengthening consumer protections for personal online data. State lawmakers will consider a new data-privacy bill this year that aims to accomplish that.”

A friendly reminder from the FBI: Your smart TV could give hackers a way in (The Washington Post | December 3, 2019)


Washington State House Republican Communications