If you asked 100 Californians if they want to give more of their personal information while eating at a restaurant or buying school supplies for their kids, what do you think the answer would be?
A current law moving through the state legislature says the answer to that question should be "yes."
Assembly Bill 161 mandates that every small business in California provide digital e-receipts on all transactions. Traditional paper receipts would only be available if the customer specifically requests it, and any business not in complete compliance with the proposed law would be subject to penalties like government fines.
If this bill passes, your default experience as a customer will be to input your personal information at the register every time you make a purchase. And the clerk at the convenience store down the street who just wants to quickly sell you that small bottle of orange juice will now be responsible for safeguarding your data.
In short, every time consumers offer up personally identifiable information, they will be providing yet another pathway to be bombarded with unwanted ads and solicitations -- not to mention the wholesale mining of their email address, purchase order and other data.
Enormous risks to personal privacy exist as well. Mandated digital e-receipts for all purchases create a digital link that has the potential to dramatically undermine relationships between children and parents, between spouses and between colleagues who all share access to digital e-receipts. Personal purchases are no longer personal.
Additionally, compliance with AB 161 will actively undermine the larger goals and responsibilities of the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA), the landmark privacy bill passed last year.
Customers will be required to provide some personally identifiable information during the check-out transaction. The check-out clerk will also have to provide CCPA-mandated disclosures during every transaction that includes the kind of information required by a mandated e-receipt, like personal email addresses or cell phone numbers.
Customers have the right to opt out of having their information collected and can request that every business provide a detailed accounting of how they maintain and use their customers' information. A laudable goal to be sure, but at the risk of putting individual small businesses in the position of trying to be data security experts.
Stores will also have to pay tens of thousands of dollars -- up to $45,000 per store -- to adapt their point-of-sale systems. Even then, CCPA puts into place a level of liability around e-receipts that billion-dollar technology start-ups might be able to navigate but will be a daily struggle for businesses and their consumers.
Beyond those who expect and demand minimum privacy in their digital lives, AB 161 creates new privacy concerns for the wide swath of Californians who are not digitally savvy or do not reside in areas with ubiquitous networks -- seniors, children, the unbanked, those without email addresses or smartphones or people within our community whose families depend on actively limiting their digital footprint.
It's your receipt. It's your personal information. It's your data. And it's your privacy that AB 161 will undermine.