Join our volunteer study: can Californians exercise their data privacy rights?


Are you in California? We need your help to test if your new Do-Not-Sell rights are working as intended.

It’s quick, easy, and you’ll help us strengthen and expand access to these rights.

>>Sign up here.

Some background

When Californians woke up on January 1st this year, they had new rights under the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA): the right to know what data is collected about them; the right to delete that data; and the right to stop the sale of that data.

But rights have force only if you can actually exercise them!

There have been plenty of reports of companies not honoring consumers’ CCPA requests, or making consumers jump through unreasonable hoops to get those requests fulfilled. Some of that is to be expected — the law is new, it’s messy, and it does create additional burdens on companies to comply.

But as they say: “as goes California, so goes the nation.” In the 1970s, Californians took control of air quality. Then it became a national model, and then a national standard. That’s what could happen with data privacy.

So simplifying and making it easy to exercise these rights in California is a critical step toward guaranteeing privacy for all. Active enforcement of the law begins July 1st, so it’s a great time to take stock of how well the law is working.

The study

The CR Digital Lab is launching a study to develop a ground truth understanding of how registered data brokers in CA are complying with the CCPA.

Our specific focus is compliance with consumer Do-Not-Sell requests. We will ask volunteers to exercise their Do-Not-Sell rights with at least one company, randomly selected from the ~270 data brokers who are currently registered in the state of California.

We are targeting 500–1000 participants for this study; anyone in California can participate. For most people, it should be really quick and easy.

Why data brokers? Data brokers buy and sell your most sensitive data, often without your knowledge. Because of the nature of their business, these companies should definitely be compliance with enforcement only weeks away.

What we hope to learn

Because this is a volunteer-based study, and a snapshot in time, there are limitations on what we can definitively conclude. This is not a rigorous, statistically valid study.

But this study will be instructive; we’ll learn about the common hiccups that consumers experience, how long it takes to fulfill requests, and if there are companies that aren’t living up to their obligations. We’ll publish our findings after the study concludes in June.

Further out

We hope this is the first of many such volunteer studies around digital rights issues. We are grateful to Devney Hamilton, Tom Smyth, and the rest of the team at Sassafras Tech Collective, who have done terrific work on the study design. They even built a a lightweight system, which we’re calling Studyrunner, that handles participant recruitment, randomization and assignment—and which we’re looking forward to deploying again in the future.

We’re also fortunate to be allied with Professor J. Nathan Matias and the team at Citizens and Technology Lab; in a long-term mission to build out a community of volunteer researchers that can help test and measure the disparate impacts of software, services and platforms.

In the meantime, the right to stop the sale of your data is a major milestone in the journey to a more sensible data privacy framework. So, please sign up and help pitch in on this study!

(And, if you want to follow the news on this study and the work of the Digital Lab in general, you can sign up for our newsletter here.)

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