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States Lead on Protecting Privacy

State lawmakers are moving to protect consumers online.

A year after Common Sense parents rallied for a landmark California law protecting the privacy of both adults and kids, other states around the country are now working to ensure their citizens have the right to protect their personal data.

Parents and teens strongly support strong privacy rights -- 94 percent think it's important that companies inform them about what's happening to their data -- and kids are particularly at risk of being targeted for privacy violations.

Last year, Common Sense sponsored the first-ever data privacy law in California; the state's 40 million consumers will now have the strongest consumer privacy protections in the nation.

This year, states like Maryland, New Jersey, and Massachusetts have introduced their own efforts to clean up privacy online, and some give kids extra privacy rights. Each of these bills could benefit from strengthening and more public debate, but they are important steps toward a strong web of state privacy rights.

Many of these bills share a similar philosophy, modernizing laws to keep up with technology. We need strong laws throughout the country to protect citizens against industry-led efforts, such as those in Washington state, which fall short of offering strong protections for consumers.

Cities like New York and San Francisco are joining Washington state in looking at ways to slow down the sudden rush of facial-recognition software in public places. Councilman Ritchie Torres of New York introduced his bill after learning that all spectators -- including kids -- at a basketball game were under surveillance by facial-recognition technology without their knowledge.

Attorney General TJ Donovan of Vermont will be working with legislators this year to pass legislation protecting the privacy rights of students, on the heels of a law cracking down on data brokers that passed in the state last year. He oversaw a special study commission on the privacy of Vermonters that laid out a strategy for the state to address many emerging privacy problems.

In New Mexico, Attorney General Hector Balderas filed suit against Google, Twitter, and app manufacturers last fall alleging that they illegally tracked kids online and targeted them for advertising. A half dozen other attorneys general are also investigating Facebook and other tech companies.

This is the moment we, as parents and advocates for children, have hoped for. We are committed to keeping our kids healthy and safe online and to fostering and protecting their digital well-being. And states are stepping up. If you want to learn more about these bills, find them here.

Elizabeth Galicia