San Jose Mercury News: Protecting privacy takes initiative

Dan Gillmor comments on the defeat over the weekend in the California Assembly of State Senator Jackie Speier’s financial privacy legislation.

Bring out the ballot-initiative petitions. Financial privacy is going nowhere in California without direct voter action.

You may live and vote in California, but the Legislature does not work for you. It works for all the financial institutions launching an apparently limitless supply of legislative torpedoes to sink privacy protections that Californians, like other Americans, overwhelmingly desire.

The San Francisco Chronicle also features its editorial on the Assembly’s decision in this morning’s issue. Included is a listing of who voted for/against the measure. Yesterday’s editorial also spoke to the issue.

California’s initiative process was established in 1911 out of frustration that Southern Pacific Railroad and other powerful interests were dominating Sacramento, thwarting the public’s will. Sound familiar?

Legislators will try again next year, but don’t hold your breath.

Get ready to circulate the petitions.

The irony here is going to be that the initiative process in California will very likely end up passing a much more restrictive set of limitations on financial services companies and their use of consumer data than would have been the case if the legislature had acted. Apparently the lobbyists for the financial services industry (see the list of supporters and opponents) who were behind the defeat of Speier’s bill over the weekend were willing to take that gamble. Next time, the industry will have to make their case directly to the voters.

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