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California Consumer Privacy Act

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California recently implemented a consumer privacy act aimed at giving consumers a choice about companies selling their personal data. The law is not just a matter of concern for Californians; because it is an economic powerhouse, the state has considerable influence. My home state of Maine, which has far less influence than California, has a similar law. As would be suspected, such laws are philosophically interesting. One general concern involves the matter of scope: should such privacy laws be handled by the states or the federal government? One compelling reason for having the federal government handle such privacy concerns is that state boundaries are essentially non-existent when it comes to data and privacy concerns. After all, people around the country routinely make purchases online and use online services across state boundaries. There is also the consistency argument: it is easier for business and consumers to have one law to deal with rather than fifty. There are some reasons to oppose a federal law, such as concerns that lobbyists would craft the federal law to the advantage of certain companies and to the detriment of consumers. There is also the argument based on the idea that states are best positioned to look out for their citizens, which has some appeal. In general, I do favor having a federal standard—if only to make things easier for everyone, especially small businesses that would face the challenge of trying to sort through up to fifty different sets of rules for privacy. While privacy seems to be intuitively good, it is worth briefly considering reasons why such privacy protection is good. One approach, which should appeal to the fans of private property, is to build an argument based on the Lockean notion that people own the product of their labor. In this case, the labor would be the creation and providing of information. While a person can sell the product of this labor, to take it from them by fraud or force would be theft and thus. . .

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News source: A Philosopher's Blog

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