East County Californian: Mandating electronic purchase receipts ignores privacy and digital deserts

By California State Senator Brian W. Jones

Democrats claim to respect our right to privacy, but with his bill to mandate “electronic purchase receipts,” the Assemblymember from San Francisco is trying to force every Californian to give up yet another very large chunk of our digital privacy.

Assembly Bill 161 was introduced at a press conference with a truly disrespectful visual of a staff person wearing a lengthy “receipt” draped around his neck that flowed down to and across the floor. This bill would mandate that all businesses – retail and service – provide electronic receipts for purchases by Jan. 1, 2022, unless the purchaser specifies they want a paper receipt.

To get an electronic receipt, the consumer would have to provide their email address. I don’t know about you, but I do not want to provide my email address – and, ultimately, access to my personal information – to every retailer I purchase a product, meal or service from.

In our increasingly challenging Internet world, we’ve only recently begun to learn how Facebook, Google, Apple and others have invaded and monetized our personal data.  Worse, we’ve also learned how often that data is breached and stolen, even from “Big Tech” companies with all their supposedly impermeable security measures.

So now we’re supposed to willingly give up our data again, this time to all stores whether or not they can afford even a minimum of the security measures Big Tech claims?

Thanks, but no thanks.

Further, what about the people who don’t have and can’t afford online access? In the first-of-its-kind look at internet connectivity, data released by the Census Bureau recently exposes that there is a significant digital divide in low-income neighborhoods.

According to an op-ed written by a California State University, Sacramento professor in 2017, 43 percent of rural residents in California do not have reliable high-speed internet access while the same goes for 16 percent of the overall state population.

If the author just drives up the highway from his well-connected San Francisco, I’m sure he will find many “digital deserts” in the rural and lower-income parts of Northern California.

What are these people supposed to do for proof of purchase if electronic receipts are mandatory? Given the high-cost of living in California, if you have to choose between keeping the heat on, putting food on the table, buying gas for the car so they can get to work, or having Internet service and getting a computer printer, guess which need goes unmet?

Privacy, security, affordability – these are just a few of the topline reasons why mandating electronic receipts is a bad idea.

I welcome your thoughts on this or any other state issues. Contact me at senator.jones@sen.ca.gov.

This op-ed was originally published in the East County Californian on Apr. 29, 2019: https://eccalifornian.com/mandating-electronic-purchase-receipts-ignores-privacy-and-digital-deserts/