Dear friends and neighbors,

Now that we’ve passed the first big cut-off deadline of this legislative session, we know which bills have died and which are moving forward. And two of the biggest deal with protecting sensitive personal information that has become one of the most valued and targeted commodities in this digital age.

Data Security

Senate Bill 5432 was developed in response to a recent security breach involving Accellion, a third-party vendor used by the Office of the Washington State Auditor, which exposed social security numbers and bank account information from 1.6 million unemployment claims filed in 2020.

I’m no expert on modern technology—my wife and kids could tell you that as soon as they stop laughing—but I know I don’t want my personal information in the hands of people who want to steal my money or my digital identity. And I don’t think you do, either. This bill would create a state Office of Cybersecurity to establish statewide practices to ensure our personal information is securely protected and to investigate any breaches and identify corrective actions.

Data Privacy

When we search for a product online, ads for similar products magically show up on our social media pages, in our email —  even in our physical mailboxes. If we research a service or medical treatment, the same thing happens. But should it? Should strangers and corporations enjoy unlimited access to our personal information and actions? More importantly, should we have the right to prevent it? I say yes.

Right now there are no limits to the types of data being collected. It spans racial and ethnic origins, religious beliefs, mental and physical health conditions and diagnoses, sexual orientation, citizenship and immigration status, and genetic and biometric data, including personal data of known children and geolocation data. That’s a lot of data. And it’s in a lot of people’s hands, usually without our knowledge. The Washington Privacy Act, known more technically as Senate Bill 5062, would shift control of our data from strangers back to us. It will enable us to prohibit the use of our data for advertising, sales or profiling.

The first bill passed the Senate on Wednesday, and I expect the second bill to pass in the coming days — and both will provide assurance that our most sensitive private information can stay private.