20 States Pass Bipartisan Privacy Law to Protect Americans From Doxing and Harassment

May 29, 2024 | Luke Wachob

Amid rising partisan hostility, an unlikely bipartisan movement to protect Americans’ privacy is flourishing in state legislatures.

On May 28, Colorado Governor Jared Polis (D) signed S.B. 24-129 into law, marking the 20th state to adopt the Personal Privacy Protection Act (PPPA). The PPPA shields citizens’ names and home addresses when joining, volunteering for, or donating to nonprofit organizations. Specifically, the law prohibits state agencies from making unlawful demands or disclosures of citizens’ personal information in connection with their support for a nonprofit organization.

“Every American has the right to support causes they believe in without fear of harassment or abuse of their personal information,” said Heather Lauer, CEO of People United for Privacy (PUFP), the organization that spearheads this landmark legislation across the country. “The PPPA is a commonsense measure embraced by lawmakers in both parties as well as nonprofits across the ideological spectrum.”

A Growing Bipartisan Movement

The PPPA has won widespread support both inside and outside of legislative chambers. Three states – Alabama, Colorado, and Nebraska – have passed the law unanimously since 2023. The bill has been sponsored by members of both parties and signed into law by both Democratic and Republican governors.

A unique coalition of nonprofits has assembled to support the PPPA, including groups that disagree on many policy issues. The law has been endorsed by various state chapters of the ACLU, NAACP, and Planned Parenthood as well as a broad range of pro-life groups, gun rights groups, and free market think tanks. In Colorado, S.B. 24-129 was supported by the ACLU of Colorado, Colorado Nonprofit Association, Colorado WINS, Independence Institute, One Colorado, Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains, Rocky Mountain Gun Owners, and numerous others.

“We know bipartisan privacy reform is possible because we’ve seen it happen. In state after state, we’ve helped policymakers and nonprofits bridge the gaps that divide them and united diverse interests in defense of nonprofit donor privacy,” said Matt Nese, Vice President of PUFP.

Origins of Reform

The earliest version of the PPPA passed in Arizona in 2018, after agencies in a handful of states began demanding that nonprofits expose their donor lists to state officials. The PPPA clarifies that state agencies cannot unilaterally demand or disclose this sensitive personal information without clear authorization under existing law. Unlawful disclosures of Americans’ nonprofit donations can lead to threats, harassment, and attempts to get donors fired from their jobs.

The right to privately join and support nonprofit groups is protected by the First Amendment and longstanding Supreme Court precedent. The Court first articulated the right to donor privacy in NAACP v. Alabama, a unanimous 1958 ruling that struck down efforts by Jim Crow leaders to force civil rights activists to expose the identities of their supporters. In 2021, the Supreme Court again answered the calls of the nonprofit community by reaffirming and clarifying that ruling in Americans for Prosperity Foundation (AFPF) v. Bonta, a case that struck down the state of California’s demand for nonprofit donor information.

The PPPA aligns state laws with the Court’s ruling in NAACP and AFPF. It provides a layer of protection for Americans against the rising threats of doxing and online harassment. It also protects against older dangers, such as threats, vandalism, and other intimidation tactics from government officials and private actors aimed at stopping Americans from supporting particular causes.

Dedicated to Donors’ Privacy

PUFP was founded in 2018 to protect the rights of American citizens to freely and privately support ideas and nonprofits. The organization leads a 50-state effort to defend these rights through broad-based, durable coalitions that unite people and donors of all beliefs. PUFP works exclusively to defend the donor and member privacy rights of nonprofits and to protect Americans from political harassment.

Policymakers on the left and right rarely see eye to eye with one another, and the same is true for nonprofits on opposite sides of public policy issues. The success of the PPPA suggests that one thing everyone can agree on is the right to disagree.

The PPPA has become law in 20 states to date, beginning with Arizona in 2018 and followed by Mississippi in 2019; Louisiana, Oklahoma, Utah, and West Virginia in 2020; Arkansas, Iowa, South Dakota, and Tennessee in 2021; Kansas, Missouri, New Hampshire, and Virginia in 2022; Alabama, Indiana, and Kentucky in 2023; and Colorado, Georgia, and Nebraska to date in 2024.

For questions or media inquiries, please contact Luke Wachob at [email protected].

What They Are Saying About the PPPA

“I see it as really the right to associate with your fellow citizens, with your neighbors in support of causes that you believe in and free from government interference.” – Nebraska Senator Danielle Conrad (D)
“Donors may wish to remain anonymous due to religious beliefs, a desire to avoid unwanted solicitation, an inclination to keep the spotlight off themselves, or fear of reprisals for giving to certain groups.” – New Hampshire Senator William Gannon (R)
“People have a right to give to the causes they support without having their information taken and abused.” – Alabama Senator Rodger Smitherman (D)
“I believe the privacy of Kentucky nonprofit donors should be private and safe, consistent with the Bonta decision, in a manner that protects Kentuckians’ First Amendment rights.” – Kentucky Senator Whitney Westerfield (R)
“The First Amendment protects not only our right to speak, but also our freedom to join together with other citizens and organizations representing our values. [The PPPA] adds necessary safeguards to prevent these rights from being chilled.” – Dillon Nettles, former Policy and Advocacy Director at the ACLU of Alabama
“If Indiana’s certified nonprofits, which include some religious institutions, can no longer provide the option of giving anonymously, it could produce a chilling effect that endangers the funding of so much good work throughout the state.” – Claudia Cummings, President and CEO, Indiana Philanthropy Alliance
“In this age of doxing and political retribution it’s no wonder that organizations on every side of the political spectrum want to make sure that the people who are part of their team are protected. Do you really want the most radical of the MAGA crowd to know who’s supporting illegal immigration? Would you want the wild anti-abortionists to know who is supporting Planned Parenthood? Or do you want Antifa to know who’s supporting conservative groups? This is really a bill about personal safety.” – Jon Caldara, President, Independence Institute