OPINION: Privacy Act harms L.A. bloggers, online entrepreneurs

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Aileen Luib
The Baller on a Budget

I believe in the American Dream because I am lucky enough to be the American Dream. And I’m not alone; there are millions of business owners in California and I imagine some of them share my success story. As we built our businesses, we relied on our nation’s democracy to make our dreams come true and now I’m using that very democracy to keep my dreams alive. I’m writing today to my local newspaper to specifically advocate for a legislative fix to the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) by asking my representatives to continue to allow the use of tailored online advertising.

The California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) recently passed to ensure that consumers have the right to know the information any business has collected on them. These rights are important, but some aspects of the law are incredibly challenging for small businesses like mine to implement. Other aspects of the law are vague and unintentionally wipe out major sources of revenue, most notably the language related to online advertising.

Before any of these issues were a part of my lexicon, though, I was just a girl born to immigrant parents who came to this country from the Philippines to escape poverty and to give my three sisters and me a chance at success. We were on a strict budget growing up. I worked as many as three jobs simultaneously, moved many times, and my poverty mentality caught up with me as I amassed credit card debt. Eventually, I began to heal my complicated relationship with money and decided to blog about it in hopes of helping others.

It’s common for white men to write about finance, wealth, and money management, but I felt strongly that a young, female Filipina would provide a different, relatable perspective to many online users – especially millennials who are struggling due to rising living costs and exorbitant student loans. Thus, my blog Baller on a Budget was born.

Through this blog, I chronicled my path to financial freedom. I accomplished feats I never thought possible: at 23, I paid off my credit card debt; I bought my own car with cash; made almost $40,000 during my second year of blogging, and purchased my own home at the age of 26 with my boyfriend.

The blog discusses both the good and the bad experiences I encountered along the way. To support and monetize this content, I turned to advertisements. This allows anyone to access my blog without having to pay a subscription fee. Now, the advertisements make up a significant amount of my income and my blog remains free for anyonethat wants to read it.

We need clarifying language to assure that online entrepreneurs like myself can continue to make a living like this and also protect consumers’ privacy. As my practice currently stands, I don’t handle any personal information of any readers or process any payments. The online advertising I use relies on privacy practices in which identifiers that are not directly tied to a person are transferred. Advertisers do not need to know a reader’s name, address, or any other personally identifiable information. I rely on “ad networks” to make this all happen as I cannot run my own advertisement program, nor would I even begin to know what ads would even be relevant to my readers. This is a separate business in its own right.

As the CCPA currently stands, all of this would be jeopardized. And in some way, so too would the free flow of information, which is at the very heart of our democracy. While online news and information sources are increasingly moving towards a subscription-based model, I hold tight to the hope Baller on a Budget can stay free because who knows — somewhere, some other little girl born to immigrant parents, working three jobs, might be inspired to dream big too.

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