California Internet Law Developments in 2018
We have recently focused on legal developments in the area of internet law. We started off the month with a discussion of Senate Bill 822 and California's net-neutrality laws. We then progressed to talk about the California Consumer Privacy Act of 2018. We touched on Google Duplex's artificial intelligence and how Google may face potential liability for this software. Finally, we wrapped up the month with an overview of California's current cyberbullying laws. In this newsletter, we will give a brief overview of current trends in internet law, and mention ongoing developments regarding the topics we discussed this month.
Senate Bill 822 was passed by the California Senate on May 30, 2018. The bill, if passed, will restore net neutrality laws to the internet in California, and prohibit ISPs from manipulating internet traffic. This would mean that ISPs cannot slow down or block access to certain websites, or give some websites and content quicker access speeds than others. The bill was passed by the State Senate (23-12) and went on to the state assembly. In mid-June, Miguel Santiago, a California assemblyman, controversially amended the bill to leave significant loopholes for ISPs to exploit. Santiago held a vote with four Republicans and four Democrats, outside of any hearings or arguments, to create the amendment. Santiago's amendments would undermine the goals of net-neutrality by allowing ISPs to give some content preferential treatment. The amendments would also allow ISPs to slow down access speeds to certain websites, a major part of what net neutrality is aimed at preventing. State Senator Scott Weiner begrudgingly still pushed the bill through the Assembly Privacy and Consumer Protections committee this Tuesday, but says that "If this bill remains the way it is today, I will pull it." He hopes to have the language of the amendment removed, so as to give back the bill its original strength.
The California Consumer Privacy Act of 2018 is a ballot measure aimed at empowering users with more choice when it comes to what information companies can collect from users, and what companies can do with that data. If passed, CCPA will allow users to demand full disclosure of all data being collected, and give users the ability to demand that companies not sell their data to third parties. The ballot measure currently has over 600,000 signatures and was set to be voted on in the November ballot. Recent changes, however, have set the CCPA to be voted on by the state legislature Thursday, June 28, 2018. A last-minute agreement between advocates of The Consumer Privacy Act, lawmakers, and companies, has pushed forward this measure. In a sort of compromise, proponents of CCPA claim they will pull the ballot measure if the California Consumer Privacy Act of 2018 is signed into law. The Assembly Bill is set to be on Governor Brown's desk Thursday afternoon.
This month, Google introduced Google Duplex, an artificial intelligence voice assistant that makes calls to book appointments, make reservations, and check store hours. What may cause Google to face liability is that they often record the phone calls the robot makes, seemingly without consent from the person on the other end. Google records the phone conversations to find out where the robot has trouble conversing and to be able to program the robot to respond more fluently in the future. California law requires that all parties to a private conversation consent to being recorded. Because Google may be inconsistent in obtaining the parties' consent, if at all, there may be some legal issues.
Finally, we discussed current California cyberbullying laws. Most notable is California Penal Code section 652.3, which states that anyone who, with the intent to place another person in reasonable fear for their safety or the safety of their immediate family, by means of an electronic communication device, for the purpose of harassing, is guilty of a misdemeanor punishable by up to one year in a county jail, by a fine of not more than $1,000, or both. California law requires schools to have formal policies addressing cyberbullying. California law also creates liability for off-campus activity of cyberbullies. This means that if a cyberbully's off-campus behavior results in a substantial disruption of the learning environment at school, the cyberbully can be sanctioned by the school, and may also face potential criminal liability. California's cyberbullying laws are among the strictest in the country.