EFF works every year to improve policy in ways that protect your digital rights in states across the country. Thanks to the messages of hundreds of EFF members across the country, we’ve spoken up for digital rights this year from Sacramento to Augusta.
Much of EFF’s state legislative work has, historically, been in our home state of California—also often the most active state on digital civil liberties issues. This year, the Golden State passed several laws that strengthen consumer digital rights.
Two major laws we supported stand out in 2023. The first is S.B. 244, authored by California Sen. Susan Eggman, which makes it easier for individuals and independent repair shops to access materials and parts needed for maintenance on electronics and appliances. That means that Californians with a broken phone screen or a busted washing machine will have many more options for getting them fixed. Even though some electronics are not included, such as video game consoles, it still raises the bar for other right-to-repair bills.
S.B. 244 is one of the strongest right-to-repair laws in the country, doggedly championed by a group of advocates led by the California Public Interest Research Group, and we were proud to support it.
Another significant win comes with the signing of S.B. 362, also known as the CA Delete Act, authored by California Sen. Josh Becker. Privacy Rights Clearinghouse and Californians for Consumer Privacy led the fight on this bill, which builds on the state’s landmark data privacy law and makes it easier for Californians to control their data through the state’s data broker registry.
In addition to these wins, several other California bills we supported are now law. These include a measure that will broaden protections for immigration status data and one to facilitate better broadband access.
Health Privacy Is Data Privacy
States across the country continue to legislate at the intersection of digital privacy and reproductive rights. Both in California and beyond, EFF has worked with reproductive justice activists, medical practitioners, and other digital rights advocates to ensure that data from apps, electronic health records, law enforcement databases, and social media posts are not weaponized to prosecute those seeking or aiding those who seek reproductive or gender-affirming care.
While some states are directly targeting those who seek this type of health care, other states are taking different approaches to strengthen protections. In California, EFF supported a bill that passed into law—A.B. 352, authored by CA Assemblymember Rebecca Bauer-Kahan—which extended the protections of California’s health care data privacy law to apps such as period trackers. Washington, meanwhile, passed the “My Health, My Data Act”—H.B. 1155, authored by WA Rep. Vandana Slatter—that, among other protections, prohibits the collection of health data without consent. While EFF did not take a position on H.B. 1155, we do applaud the law’s opt-in consent provisions and encourage other states to consider similar bills.
Consumer Privacy Bills Could Be Stronger
Since California passed the California Consumer Privacy Act in 2018, several states have passed their own versions of consumer privacy legislation. Unfortunately, many of these laws have been more consumer-hostile and business-friendly than EFF would like to see. In 2023, eight states—Delaware, Florida, Indiana, Iowa, Montana, Oregon, Tennessee and Texas— passed their own versions of broad consumer privacy bills.
EFF did not support any of these laws, many of which can trace their lineage to a weak Virginia law we opposed in 2021. Yet not all of them are equally bad.
For example, while EFF could not support the Oregon bill after a legislative deal stripped it of its private right of action, the law is a strong starting point for privacy legislation moving forward. While it has its flaws, unique among all other state privacy laws, it requires businesses to share the names of actual third parties, rather than simply the categories of companies that have your information. So, instead of knowing a “data broker” has your information and hitting a dead end in following your own data trail, you can know exactly where to file your next request. EFF participated in a years-long process to bring that bill together, and we thank the Oregon Attorney General’s office for their work to keep it as strong as it is.
EFF also wants to give plaudits to Montana for another bill—a strong genetic privacy bill passed this year. The bill is a good starting point for other states, and shows Montana is thinking critically about how to protect people from overbroad data collection and surveillance.
Of course, one post can’t capture all the work we did in states this year. In particular, the curious should read our upcoming Year in Review post specifically focused on children’s privacy, speech, and censorship bills introduced in states this year. But EFF was able to move the ball forward on several issues this year—and will continue to fight for your digital rights in statehouses from coast to coast.
This article is part of our Year in Review series. Read other articles about the fight for digital rights in 2023.