FPF Comments on the Washington Privacy Act, SB 5376

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Today, the Future of Privacy Forum submitted comments to the Washington State Senate Ways & Means Committee on the proposed Washington Privacy Act, Senate Bill 5376. FPF takes a “neutral” position regarding the Bill, and makes a few important points.

FPF commends the Bill’s sponsors for addressing a broad set of individual data protection rights. While FPF supports a baseline federal privacy law, states that do advance legislation should do so in ways that provide consumers with comprehensive protections, in line with the Fair Information Practice Principles (FIPPs) and the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).

FPF observes that risk assessments can play an important role in protecting consumer privacy. Leading privacy frameworks include risk assessments as one important tool in setting organizations’ data protection priorities and safeguarding the most sensitive consumer information.

In its comments, FPF recommends specific expert resources on data de-identification. Most personal information exists on a continuum of identifiability. While some data is firmly linked to an individual or provably non-linkable to a person, significant amounts of data exist in a gray area – obfuscated but potentially linkable to an individual under some circumstances. Wise policies take account of this spectrum of identifiability and provide incentives for companies to de-identify data using technical, legal, and administrative measures.

FPF recommends that biometric technologies, including facial recognition, may be better served by a separate, future regulatory effort, in light of the complexity involved in crafting meaningful regulation of those technologies. In recent years, FPF has published resources on the distinctions between related technologies, including facial detection, facial characterization, and facial recognition – and offers further engagement on those issues.

FPF recently established an office in Seattle, which is the center for our Smart Communities project. This effort brings together privacy leaders at municipalities around the country who are implementing smart city projects in order to help them develop strong data protection frameworks.

NOTE: On March 21, 2019 FPF submitted comments on Senate Bill 5376 to the Washington State House Committee on Innovation, Technology, and Economic Development.