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As Federal Talks Fizzle, California Privacy Law Takes Center Stage

Just months before the state's new privacy law is set to take effect, Silicon Valley giants and other corporations are facing off against privacy advocates in a last-ditch effort to alter the measure, the California Consumer Privacy Act, in the supermajority Democratic Legislature.

By Katy Murphy

California is taking center stage, with a federal data privacy deal sputtering in Washington, in the battle over how companies handle consumer data — a familiar role for the giant state with a long history of compelling industry changes.

Just months before the state's new privacy law is set to take effect, Silicon Valley giants and other corporations are facing off against privacy advocates in a last-ditch effort to alter the measure, the California Consumer Privacy Act, in the supermajority Democratic Legislature.

“The stakes are astronomically high because businesses of all sizes across every industry are expected to comply with the letter of this complex law in less than five months,” said Sarah Boot, a lobbyist for the California Chamber of Commerce, which has led a push to narrow the kinds of data covered in the law, among other changes.

So far, the business community — which thought it would get a second chance to tweak the landmark law this year before it takes effect Jan. 1 — has been largely unsuccessful. With four weeks left of the legislative session, trade associations representing Facebook, Google and a host of other corporations are expected to unleash their lobbying firepower to secure exemptions, if not a delay, when lawmakers return to Sacramento on Monday. In the year's second quarter alone, industry groups spent hundreds of thousands of dollars to influence privacy legislation, according to their lobbying disclosure reports.

After two failed bids to strengthen the 2018 law, data-privacy advocates say their goal for the year is simply to keep the Privacy Act intact.

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