California's privacy act to remain when AG Becerra leaves, experts say

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Consumer technology and privacy advocates say California’s landmark data privacy policy will remain in the absence of Xavier Becerra, the state attorney general whom President-elect Joe Biden on Monday picked to lead the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Becerra, who become California’s attorney general in 2017, is responsible for enforcing the California Consumer Privacy Act, which went into effect Jan. 1 and started being fully enforced on July 1. Becerra authored a framework last year to inform consumers and help businesses comply with the act, noting that the state wasn’t interested in “gotcha” tactics to penalize companies that had previously collected consumer data.

The law, which supplies Californians with a host of rights, like the ability to request companies delete their personal information, comprises the strongest privacy protections in the U.S., and has “effectively become the national privacy law” by requiring large companies to comply with it, said James Steyer, the founder of Common Sense Media, a nonprofit that advocates for technology that is safe for children and families.

“He was a great legislator and really good attorney general, but the country clearly needs him now on big issues like defending the [Affordable Care Act] and dealing with the COVID-19 crisis,” Steyer told StateScoop.

Common Sense Media was a sponsor of the CCPA, as well as Proposition 24, a California ballot initiative passed this year to create an independent state agency to enforce the CCPA. The existence of the agency will ensure the CCPA’s provisions are upheld, Steyer said, and it’s likely that Gov. Gavin Newsom, a proponent of the act himself, will appoint a new attorney general whose dedication to privacy law matches Becerra’s.

Steyer said there’s also a possibility that federal legislation even stronger than the CCPA could be passed in 2021.

“I’m confident that Gov. Newsom is going to appoint an AG to replace Xavier who will be a strong supporter and enforcer of the CCPA, and basically be vigilant in protecting kids, consumers and families from online harm and be diligent about protecting privacy in California and nationally,” Steyer said.

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California Consumer Privacy Act, Common Sense Media, HHS, Joe Biden, Xavier Beccera
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