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Is Sacramento the Privacy Regulation Capital?

In his excellent article in Forbes this week, Eric Goldman asks whether Sacramento is the “World Capital of Internet Privacy Regulation.”  As someone who has had the misfortune to deal with California’s legislature on a regular basis, I can answer that if Sacramento isn’t yet the nation’s tech regulation capital, it’s not for lack of trying.

California is in the bizarre position of being an incubator of the most amazing technological innovations the world has ever seen and architect of the most bizarre, aggressive, ingenuity-killing privacy regulation efforts in the nation.

To be sure, there are places in the world (although not in this country) that have stricter, more regressive privacy regulations than California.  But in the past year alone, California legislators introduced bills to: creates massive, unprecedented limitations on how mobile apps can support their free products, make it impossible for a supermarket to use emails to advertise its weekly specials to a 17 year-old if the email includes an ad for wine, and overrule federal laws fostering the growth of social networks.

Lawmakers in Sacramento are without question, some of the most aggressive in the nation at seeking new ways to regulate the way data moves online and the tools innovators have at their disposal to communicate with users and try new business models.

We’ve previously written about this threat.  Last summer, we wrote in the San Francisco Chronicle about Sacramento’s War on Silicon Valley and placed California Privacy Laws #1 on our iAWFUL list.  But we fear that the problem is only escalating.

As the de facto stewards of a California technology industry that has grown and thrived in an environment of “innovation through light-touch regulation,” California lawmakers should know better than to kill the goose that laid hundreds of golden startups.

Sadly, that doesn’t seem to be the case.