1. Albany, N.Y., new battlefront over privacy regulation: big tech pans Balkan’s “information fiduciary” concept and doesn’t want the public to sue or be “opted out” by default
A new front in the battle among privacy advocates, business and tech platforms emerged this week in Albany, N.Y. Two New York Senate committees heard nearly three hours of testimony on two legislative proposals on Tuesday (June 4).
Spokesmen for retailers, for the big tech platforms and other technology groups all registered opposition to Senate Bill 5642, which would allow any state resident to bring suit against companies that violate privacy rights enshrined the proposed law.
They also said the didn’t like a provision of the bill required a user to affirmatively “opt-in” to sharing of their data with a website before the sharing can begin. The California Consumer Privacy Act works the other way around — consumers are presumed to OK with data tracking unless the affirmatively “opt-out.”
The principal sponsor of both bills, New York Sen. Kevin M. Thomas, pushed back in questions and the measure is left pending in committee for the moment. Privacy advocates, in testimony, generally support SB 5642. The other bill heard, Senate Bill 5575, would require public notification when there are leaks of personal data. It was seen as non-controversial by witnesses.
On SB 5642, business and tech opponents said they were opposed to a novel provision inspired by the writings of Yale Law School Prof. Jack Balkin — the so-called “information fiduciary.”
“Fiduciaries, like an attorney or a doctor, hold onto your information. They don’t share it, unless there is a need for the purpose for which they collected it,” Sen. Thomas says. “That’s not what’s going on here with these data companies and these data brokers. They’re sharing it, and we’re getting targeted.”
The opponents said they were concerned that being asked to act in behalf of the public on privacy matters could conflict with a corporation’s “fiduciary obligations” to stockholders.
In addition, the four business witnesses each said they would prefer federal privacy legislation rather than a state law.
The four opponents were representing the Retail Council of New York, TechNet, Tech New York as well as the Internet Association, which represents Amazon, Google, Facebook and other data-tech companies.