Interview with Washington State’s Chief Privacy Officer

Katy Ruckle, Washington State’s Chief Privacy Officer, participated in an interview with Gloria Dittus, Chairman of Story Partners. In her role as Chief Privacy Officer, Katy Ruckle is focused on helping pass the Washington Privacy Act, comprehensive data privacy legislation in Washington State.

During the interview, Chief Privacy Officer Ruckle discussed the importance of this issue, current legislation before the Washington State Legislature, and current efforts her office is taking to protect Washington State resident’s personal information.

With the passage of the CCPA in California, Washington state lawmakers are seeking to pass comprehensive data privacy legislation this year. Why is legislation on this issue so important in Washington state?

The proposed Washington Privacy Act takes an important step forward for residents to be able to protect their privacy.  The right to privacy was included as an explicit right in our state’s Constitution 130 years ago, under Article I, Section 7.  I don’t know what the future of technology holds, but I’m confidant privacy will remain a fundamental value for Washington residents in another 130 years and beyond.

In your role as the state Chief Privacy Officer, you have stated that you will be working closely on helping pass the Washington Privacy Act. What policies are you advocating for in a law?

The Washington state Legislature sets specific policies in the law. My office is advocating for meaningful privacy legislation in the state. The Washington Privacy Act provides several rights not currently available to Washington residents regarding their information held by private companies. These include the right of access, correction, deletion, data portability, and opt-out provisions regarding targeted marketing, profiling, and the sale of personal data. This bill also helps provide clearer guidance to industry on expectations for how to handle consumer data. My hope is these processes will become standard practice instead of new concepts.

A similar bill was introduced last year: Why do you think a bill will pass this year? How is the bill different than last years’ bill?

This year’s bill builds upon the important conversations that have been held over the past few years around privacy. The current version of the Washington Privacy Act had the opportunity to benefit from ongoing work with stakeholders and affected parties. Key differences include removing the regulation on government use of facial recognition technologies and changes regarding who the law applies to.  Specifically, the law applies to businesses that control or process data of 100,000 or more consumers during a calendar year or businesses that derive 50 percent of gross revenue from the sale of personal data and processing or controlling personal data of 25,000 or more consumers. Government use of facial recognition technology is now addressed in a separate bill.

Can you tell us about some of the ongoing efforts that your office is taking to protect Washington state residents’ personal information?

My office works with state agencies and local governments that handle Washington resident’s personal information. We provide training and education regarding data stewardship principles for lawful, fair, and responsible use of the public’s data. Examples include data minimization and retention practices, setting stricter standards for handling sensitive data, performing due diligence when contracting with third parties, and ensuring appropriate security safeguards are in place to protect data.