Election News

Making their voices heard at the polls, Californians voted on a number of candidates and measures that may affect their privacy rights.

California voters elected Democratic State Senator Debra Bowen, who prevailed in a tight race for Secretary of State over Republican incumbent Bruce McPherson.  Bowen has authored significant privacy legislation in California, including security freeze legislation, and campaigned on a platform focused on privacy rights, including security and reliability questions surrounding the use of electronic voting machines.

Californians have rejected Proposition 85, with 54% of voters voting no on the measure, which would have prohibited abortion for a minor until 48 hours after a physician notifies her parent or legal guardian, except in cases of medical emergency or a parental waiver.  Proposition 85 was similar to last year’s Proposition 73, which lost by a six percent margin.  Opponents of the measure argued it would endanger at-risk minors and threaten privacy rights.  In 1997, the California Supreme Court struck down as violative of the right of privacy guaranteed by article I, section 1, of the California Constitution, a law requiring minors to obtain parental consent or court approval prior to an abortion.  American Academy of Pediatrics v. Lungren, S041459.

In Other News

Safeway has announced that it will take measures to enhance privacy protection for its blind customers by making point-of-service devices more accommodating.  Most shoppers likely are familiar with touch-screen point-of-service machines, which accept payment cards and allow shoppers to enter pin numbers by touching an electronic screen.  Because those machines lack buttons, blind shoppers must rely on store clerks or other shoppers to enter their PINs.  To resolve this problem, Safeway has installed keyboards that plug into the point-of-service devices in all of its California stores, and will implement these changes in each of its 1,555 U.S. stores over the next year.

Safeway will take these steps as part of a binding agreement with a coalition of several blindness organizations, which also convinced 23 other national businesses to sign on.  Safeway agreed to take ameliorative steps in 2004, after the organizations raised questions regarding potential violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

A.B. 1489 requires all California stores to have point-of-service devices that are both accessible to the blind and conducive to privacy.  The bill requires that every point-of-service device with a visual touch-screen have either (1) a tactile keypad or (2) “other technology, such as a radio frequency identification device, fingerprint biometrics, or some other mechanism . . . that provides the opportunity for the same degree of privacy input and output available to all individuals.”  If a business has no more than two point-of-service devices, only one must be blind-accessible.

At least one court has recently addressed the applicability of the ADA to new technology.  In September 2006, the United States District Court for the Northern District of California allowed a claim under the ADA and Unruh Civil Rights Act to proceed where plaintiffs alleged that a website offering services related to physical stores was inaccessible to the blind.

Proskauer law clerk Cliff Davidson contributed to this post.