Washington Privacy Act Runs Aground – A Harsh Lesson In The Risks Of Excluding Stakeholders

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A surprise legislative storm ripped through Olympia, Washington last week, and the proposed Washington Privacy Act (SB-5376) took the brunt of the damage. The bill sailed through the Democrat-controlled Washington State Senate on a vote of 46-1, but encountered surprise headwinds in the Democrat-controlled State House.  The House failed to vote on the bill before the April 17th deadline for taking action on non-budget legislation.

Although there is still a chance that SB-5376 can be kept alive until the Legislature adjourns on April 28, the bill’s failure to pass the House is a significant blow for some privacy advocates who saw Washington State building upon the California and European Union privacy laws. State Senator Guy Palumbo, a co-sponsor of SB-5376 lamented the impasse as a “case of the perfect being the enemy of the good.”

The impasse apparently centered on facial recognition technology and the fact legislators invited technology companies to participate in reconciling the Senate and proposed House language, but did not invite consumer advocacy groups.

Ironically, this development could be considered bad news for the companies who would be regulated by privacy regulation, because the forecast demise of this legislation weakens the argument that Congress needs to pass federal legislation to eliminate a patchwork of state laws affecting interstate commerce.

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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