During yesterday's meeting, the California Senate Judiciary Committee passed S.B. 761 on a party line vote (Democrats yes, Republicans no), sending it to the Appropriations Committee. As MRA mentioned Friday and April 25, this threatening bill would potentially cripple survey research by prohibiting transferring or sharing consumers' data and allowing for private lawsuits.

The Committee yesterday dismissed opposition arguments -- especially MRA's concerns that such policy needs to be decided at the federal rather than the state level and legal concerns about the violation of the Constitution's Commerce Clause -- and voted to pass the bill.

The Committee did recognize a problem with the draconian prohibition on any sharing or transfer of consumers' data, as they stated in the Committee report on S.B.761: "While this provision is intended to prohibit any further sale, sharing, or transfer of a consumer's information, it is not intended to prohibit that sharing or transferring if a consumer has expressly opted in to that relationship.  For example, the author and his sponsor indicate that this provision is not intended to prevent a business from completing a commercial transaction with the consumer."

So S.B. 761 was amended to protect commercial transactions, but no other sharing of data, adding: "except that the regulations adopted by the Attorney General shall permit a covered entity to enter in to a commercial transaction with a consumer and to collect, store, and share that consumer's covered information solely to complete that transaction." The committee seems to think that this means the bill allows for data sharing in cases of consumer opt in, though that remains extremely unclear.

Regardless of the ultimate fate of S.B. 761, there is a rumor floating that parts or all of this bill might end up before the voters as a state ballot initiative in the future.

MRA weighed in with the Committee previously, and will continue to oppose this legislation. However, it does emphasize the need to get reasonable a baseline privacy law at the federal level that will pre-empt such attempts in the future.