California Moves to Respect Consumer’s Online Privacy

Media Contacts
Jon Fox

Legislators pass bill that would strengthen Do-Not-Track mechanisms.


Sacramento, CA – The California Public Interest Research Group (CALPIRG) congratulated California state legislators for passing AB 370 (Muratsuchi) out of the bill’s first committee hearing. AB 370 would require websites to disclose whether or not they honor consumer requests to disable online tracking. This bill would also require website operators to disclose whether they’ve prevented or allowed third parties to use online tracking. 

Online cookies were originally designed to help websites “remember” a consumer for their next visit, speeding up the browsing experience and making it more fluid and enjoyable. Since then, tracking cookies, especially third-party tracking cookies, have become more sophisticated, compiling a record of individuals’ browsing histories, online interactions, movements, and interests.

“Many Californians would be surprised to learn how their personal data is collected across platforms and could be used in unexpected and potentially harmful ways,” said Jon Fox, CALPIRG consumer advocate, adding “Online data tracking has real world impacts and this bill gives Californians more power to protect themselves.”

The collection and misuse of our personal data is not some abstract fear, here are some alarming recent cases that have affected people lives:

  • Companies collecting online information and activities have exposed sensitive and private health information, revealing a woman’s pregnancy before she chose to tell her family.
  • With such an overwhelming pool of data, it is not uncommon to have incorrect data connected to consumers without their knowledge. Data brokers have shared incorrect information with employers and loan agencies, and Americans have lost jobs and been denied mortgages because of it.

“While some web browsers allow consumers to tell website operators that they do not wish to be tracked and to block third party cookies, websites are not obligated to respect those requests. AB 370 will let Californians know up-front which websites respect their privacy settings, and which choose to ignore them,” said Jon Fox. “It won’t stop businesses from tracking us online, but it will empower consumers to choose websites and online services that respect our privacy choices.”

In 2011, online advertising industry groups pledged to develop voluntarily mechanisms to honor user’s browser-based Do-Not-Track flags. Since then, negations to set universal Do-Not-Track standards as part of the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) fell through and little progress has been made towards self regulation. While some companies have decided to move ahead themselves, consensus and clarity around Do-Not-Track standards are still absent. AB 370 closes the gap left by the industries’ refusal to adopt network-wide standards on how to treat Do-Not-Track requests and what sort of behavior constitutes tracking.

CALPIRG supports AB 370, and urges California’s legislators to adopt AB 370. To learn more about online tracking, click here.


The California Public Interest Research Group (CALPIRG) Education Fund is a result-oriented public interest group that protects consumers, encourages a fair sustainable economy, and fosters responsive democratic governance.



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