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7.2.24  – Houston Public Media

The new law also protects from any discrimination if a Texas resident chooses to use their new rights.

As of Monday, a new data privacy law allows Texas residents to request companies to delete data collected about them.

House Bill 4, which passed last year, allows any Texas resident to ask companies if they are using their data and to provide what data they are using in a readable format. They can also ask for the data to be corrected or deleted completely.

Nikolas Guggenberger is a University of Houston Law Professor focusing on Privacy and Data Protection Law. Guggenberger said companies most commonly receive data from consumers when they sign up to newsletters, or through trackers on their website.

“They aggregate that information, and they feed it into their algorithms,” he said.

When a website asks a consumer to accept cookies, for example, they are asking for a consumer to share their data. Because of this, Guggenberger said online businesses will be most affected by the new law.

“Some businesses rely more on using personal data than others do. But it is really hard to as a large business, not rely on the processing or use of personal data,” he said. “So whether or not you are an online business specifically, you almost necessarily deal with personal information.”

Small businesses, as defined by the Small Business Administration, will be exempt from the new law. Some other exemptions include non-profit organizations, state agencies, financial institutions governed by the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act (GLB), and entities governed by the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA).

The new law also protects from any discrimination if a Texas resident chooses to use their new rights. Guggenberger said a consumer might decide to use this right because companies could also sell their data.

“They might go out to data brokers and say, ‘Hey, I need granular data market analysis of, I don’t know, Houstonians that use fitness studios on Saturday mornings,’” he said. “So they go out and buy that data from third parties or get it from third parties in exchange for other services.”

Google, for example, provides users with access to information about who they think they are like their age range, income bracket, and even if they’re in a relationship. However, Guggenberger said companies will not be required to notify consumers about their new rights.

Texas is one of nearly 20 states to successfully pass a privacy law so far. Guggenberger said an online legislation tracker shows the differences between each law that has passed.

“What’s politically interesting about it is that states as politically diverse as California, Connecticut, Indiana, and now Texas, have passed privacy regulation,” he said. “And while they vary in detail a lot, while their stringency varies a lot, their basic, fundamental principals, they’re pretty similar.”