WR hears updates on possible data privacy laws

Oct 9, 2019
Written by Mark Johnson, Senior Vice President of Policy and Government Affairs

Possible legislation on regulating data privacy remains Washington Retail’s top priority heading toward the 2020 Legislative Session.

During a listening session last week in Seattle with key bill sponsors, I brought up two of WR’s concerns regarding Senate Bill 5376 and House Bill 1854 that will be up for automatic consideration after their introduction earlier this year. The Legislature elected not to pass either bill this year.

But interest in the issue is widespread among retailers and requires intense work during recess to result in the best possible outcome for retailers and consumers.

Issues I addressed with prime sponsors, Senator Reuven Carlyle (D-36 Seattle) and Representative Zack Hudgins (D-11 Tukwila) included:

  • Facial recognition technology. Retailers want to know whether its use will be addressed as part of the existing bills or in a new, separate bill. Among the 50 who attended in person and about 50 others on the phone, there were varying and strong opinions about how to proceed.
  • The cost to implement any regulation. California businesses will be required to comply with a new data privacy act on January 1. The estimated cost for 570,000 business is $55 billion. Further, only an estimated 11% of California businesses know that state lawmakers approved new regulations. I stressed the need to ensure sufficient time for affected companies to thoughtfully and properly institute the provisions of any new regulation. Many European businesses continue to struggle to comply with data privacy regulations approved in 2018.
  • Many at the meeting wanted the State Attorney General to be the enforcement agency rather than enacting a private right-of-action as proposed in the House bill that would lead to costly and unnecessary legal action.

Though no clear consensus has yet emerged, the meeting was worthwhile to highlight the amount of interest stakeholders, including retailers, have in achieving legislation that carefully handles consumer data and that allows retailers to deliver the quality service that customers demand.

Among legislators who attended the meeting were Senator Joe Nguyen (D-34 West Seattle) and Representative Gael Tarleton (D-36 Seattle), both of whom serve on respective technology committees.