Privacy Laws Are Best Defense Against Surveillance State, Says Senator Thomas

Originally published in Forbes on December 26, 2019.

As AI escalates the weaponization of data from biometrics, identity documents, payment history and reputation scores, privacy advocates are finding ways to fight the monitoring, commoditization and monetization of individuals.

States are now actively seeking to legislate what the U.S. federal government has not, that is the rights of U.S. citizens to know what data is being collected, how it’s being used, how to take possession of it, delete it, and opt out of it being shared or sold.

These are the protections afforded by the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) taking effect January 1 and many large companies have already begun to update their privacy policies and notify consumers of their data rights. 

New York State Senator Kevin Thomas, Chair of the Consumer Protection Committee and author of the New York Privacy Act, has introduced legislation that is far broader than the CCPA and makes all data-collecting entities that do business in New York data fiduciaries who must attain “express and documented consent” from consumers before using, processing, transferring, selling or sharing their data. In essence, requiring consumers to opt in, not opt out of permissions.

I had a chance to talk with Senator Thomas about the bill, his opposition, and the recent hearing in which testimony was gathered from Great Hack stars Brittany Kaiser and David Carroll (who I recently interviewed), Internet Association’s John Olsen, securities experts, civil liberties counsel, consumer rights activists and other key figures. (Watch the hearing here.) 

Read the full interview on Forbes.com.