While the presidential election is still in the balance, several ballot initiatives with broad implications for how we use technology have passed.
Ballot initiatives pose questions to voters and can — if passed — create, amend, or repeal existing state law. In total, there were 129 statewide ballot initiatives across the country in this presidential election, including many around taxation and drug legalization.
Here’s a round-up of some of the initiatives on tech policy with broader national implications, and what they might mean for consumers, privacy, and corporations. We’ll update it as more are confirmed passed over the next few days.
California: gig workers will not become employees.
Proposition 22 was easily approved by California voters, meaning that gig workers for apps like Lyft, Uber, and Doordash will not become employees of those companies. Instead they will remain as independent contractors. This essentially overturns AB-5, passed last year, which would have given gig workers the same protections, like minimum wage, benefits, and compensation as other workers. The proposition also includes a provision that a ⅞ majority in California’s senate is required to overturn it, making any changes very difficult. As Mary-Beth Moylan, a law professor at McGeorge School of Law in Sacramento recently noted, it is more common for ballot initiatives to require a ¾ majority to pass, rather than ⅞.
A consortium of tech companies, including Uber, Lyft, and Postmates, spent more than $200 million in support of it—the most spent on any California proposition. Their huge financial advantage was amplified by their access to in-app marketing, including messaging that suggested that “Yes on 22” would protect workers. In contrast, the opposition, led by labor unions, raised just short of $20 million.
Given the outspend, the results were somewhat expected—and both the fundraising and marketing may provide a playbook for future fights between tech companies and consumers.
Also California: expanded privacy protections for consumers
The “Consumer Personal Information Law and Agency Initiative,” a.k.a Proposition 24, also passed, expanding the state’s privacy protections for consumers. The proposition calls for the creation of a new enforcement agency for the state’s privacy laws, expanding the types of information that consumers can opt out to share with advertisers, and shifting its “do not sell” provision to “do not sell and share.”
The measure was actually a bit contentious among privacy rights groups, as we explained in advance of the vote:
“Consumers would still have to opt into the protections, rather than opt out, and companies would be allowed to charge more for goods and services to make up for revenue they lose by not getting to sell data. This could make it harder for low-income and other marginalized groups to exercise their privacy rights.”
Massachusetts: voters approve a “right to repair” law for vehicles
Massachusetts voters overwhelmingly said yes to Question 1, “Amend the Right to Repair Law,” which will give car owners and independent mechanics greater access to wireless vehicle data. ” A similar law had passed in Massachusetts in 2013 that required diagnostic data to be shared with independent mechanics, but it did not cover wireless data, which has become more common in the seven years since. This law would have filled in that gap. The law is a blow to the auto manufacturers that lobbied for a no vote. They argued that this change would not give them enough time to protect he car’s security systems against hacking.
The law will come into effect on cars made from 2022 and it is likely that it won’t just affect Massachusetts. Auto firms, like other consumer product companies, tend to match the highest regulatory standards set by states and so consumers across the country also stand to benefit.
Michigan: Protect electronic data from unreasonable search
Michigan’s Proposition 22, which would require a search warrant for electronic and data and communications, will pass with wide margins. A number of states have already passed similar legislation protecting electronic data, including Missouri and New Hampshire.
This story will be updated when other ballot measures are confirmed to have passed.