Prop 24 Opponents Win Key Court Ruling Upholding the Invasion of Privacy Act

In a decision yesterday striking down a lower court ruling, the California Court of Appeal for the Third District upheld the California Invasion of Privacy Act, which is one of our state’s strongest consumer protection laws.

The Appellate Court cited a brief submitted by four of the organizations that are leading the No on Proposition 24 campaign. All four groups have long track records of standing up for consumer privacy.

The court stated it agreed with our argument that phone calls made over internet phones, or VoIP phones, are covered by a law that prohibits the secret recording of phone calls.

Prop 24 opponents Consumer Federation of California, Consumer Action, TURN – The Utility Reform Network, and Consumers for Auto Reliability and Safety submitted a brief to the Court of Appeal, along with the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse, to persuade the court to retain crucial protections that the Invasion of Privacy Act provides California consumers. (PRC is neutral on Prop 24).

“The same consumer advocates that protected your telecom privacy rights in court now oppose Prop 24 because it is a privacy reduction initiative,” Richard Holober, President of the Consumer Federation of California stated.

The case is Gruber v. Yelp. Among other components of the trial court ruling that the Appellate Court reversed, it referred to the brief filed by the Prop 24 opponents:

“We have accepted and considered amicus curiae briefs from two groups. The first amicus brief, filed by Consumer Federation of California, Consumers for Auto Reliability and Safety, Privacy Rights Clearinghouse, Consumer Action and The Utility Reform Network (hereinafter, consumer amici), argues against the trial court’s finding that VoIP does not quality as one of the telecommunications devices delineated under section 632.7 [the strongest enforcement provision of the Invasion of Privacy Act] but takes no position on whether summary judgment in favor of Yelp is appropriate. For reasons discussed below, we agree with consumer amici that the trial court erred in finding Yelp’s VoIP system does not come within the scope of section 632.7.” Gruber v. YelpCalifornia Court of Appeal, Third Appellate District, Division 3, A155063, Certified for Publication October 7, 2020. (emphasis added).

According to news reports, in August 2019, around the same time that Prop 24 opponents went to court to restore your privacy rights, the business tycoon sponsoring Prop 24 was secretly corresponding with a lobbyist for Experian, one of the nation’s biggest credit reporting agencies with access to financial data on 335 million Americans. Experian was seeking changes in Prop 24 to privacy restrictions in current law on commercial credit reports. According to an email obtained by an investigative reporter, they reached an agreement to place language in Prop 24 that weakens these privacy restrictions.1

“Voters should note that the organizations that show up time and again to protect your privacy rights oppose Prop 24. But when the privacy of millions of Californians hung in the balance, Prop 24’s sponsor was holding secret discussions with a huge corporation to whittle away at privacy rights,” Holober stated.