Supporters of Senate Bill 561 (Jackson – D, Santa Barbara) relied on a recent poll of 800 likely 2020 presidential election voters in California, commissioned by the American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California (the “ACLU”) and conducted by David Binder Research, to support stronger privacy laws in California.  The poll was brought to light at a recent Senate committee hearing to support enactment of that bill and a full private right of action in the California Consumer Privacy Act of 2018 (the “CCPA”).

The poll, conducted in March 2019, asked voters, in general terms, about their support for stricter privacy laws in California. The first question asked voters, “California is considering new laws to require tech companies to get your permission from you before they share your personal information.  It would give you the right to know what personal information about you has been collected and who your personal information has been shared with.”  According to the poll, 94% of California likely voters either strongly or somewhat supported those laws.  This included 96% of Democrats and 89% of Republicans.  Support was also strong across age groups and regions (Southern California voters showed the least support, at 93%).

Giving consumers a private right of action also received strong support from respondents to the poll. According to the poll, 94% of Californians support laws that allow individuals to “take a company to court if they violate your privacy rights.”  And an “opt-in” regime, which would require companies to obtain a consumer’s affirmative consent before sharing the consumer’s information with third parties, received 97% support.

Notably, however, poll questions were phrased in such a way that suggested that only large technology companies like Google, Facebook and Yahoo! would be covered. The poll questions asked voters about laws regulating “tech companies.”  Accordingly, while privacy is clearly almost universally popular in California, it is unclear how voters would come out on the CCPA itself, which imposes huge regulatory burdens and expenses not just on large tech companies, but also on medium-sized and some small businesses in California.

The poll, which was conducted between March 9 an March 11, 2019 by telephone, cell phone and online, has a margin of error of +/- 3.5%. The poll is already being used by lawmakers to justify stronger privacy laws in California, and given the almost universal support found by the poll, that is likely to continue in the future.