Proposition 24 is tough stuff—tough to get through and understand that is. The measure runs 52-pages. The politics are a bit confusing, too. While proponents argue that Proposition 24 will strengthen California’s current privacy law, some privacy advocates say it’s not strong enough and that’s why they want it defeated. But it has always seemed to me there should be a third choice in the debate over using a person’s information: companies should pay an individual each time they sell, share or use a person’s information. 

The initiative changes existing consumer data privacy laws and establishes new consumer rights and business penalties for ignoring the privacy law. It also creates another state agency –this one would enforce the privacy data requirements–a duty now the responsibility of the Department of Justice. 

Proponents say the current state privacy law needs strengthening to protect against tracking individuals and their habits and revealing sensitive and personal information like an individual’s finances and health. 

Opponents say that if Proposition 24 passes it will reduce privacy rights and give businesses more opportunity to exploit personal matters. They want to see a tougher law that would require consumers to opt-in with businesses before they use their data, rather than having an option to opt-out under current law. In addition, they want to give consumers the power to go after companies with a private right of action if their rights are violated instead of letting law enforcement agencies be totally responsible.

This later provision would be welcomed by the legal community but would be another dagger aimed at business.

What about requiring data managers to pay for the right to use an individual’s personal information? Proposition 24 is being criticized for allowing people to pay to protect their privacy. How about people getting paid for their data?

A year ago, in a piece published by CalMatters, I argued that the legislature in deciding whether they would pass a bill allowing college athletes to profit from the use of their identities should apply that same principle to an individual’s information collected on the Internet. 

More from that article that I think should be considered as voters contemplate Proposition 24…

In selling sports jerseys with someone’s name attached or using real athletes and their statistical history as characters in video games, money is made off the athletes’ unique qualities just as money is made off individual’s distinctive data and interests that is captured by Internet companies. 

Of course, developing the value of personal data and how to price it will be a difficult task. Tech companies will warn that services that people enjoy freely today may find themselves behind paywalls if the data income spigot is cut off….

The question is can data collection be done in a way to satisfy consumers without damaging business. Supporters of paying for data argue that business opportunities would be enhanced under such a program because competing businesses would enter the field to offer rewards for data.

I am not alone in considering this option. In his 2019 State of the State address, Governor Gavin Newsom said, “So I want to applaud this legislature for passing the first-in-the-nation digital privacy law last year. But California’s consumers should also be able to share in the wealth that is created from their data. And so, I’ve asked my team to develop a proposal for a new Data Dividend for Californians, because we recognize that your data has value and it belongs to you.”

Proposition 24 wants to create a new state agency to enforce a complex 52-page law. Opponents of Prop 24 want even tougher laws that would unleash a horde of lawyers on the business community. How about a third option: let the people prosper from their individuality.