Is Google’s Algorithm Biased Against Prop 24’s Online Privacy Regulations?


November 2, 2020

Consumer Watchdog, a nonprofit, progressive organization, sent a letter Friday to California Sen. Tom Umberg, chair of the Senate Elections Committee, suggestingGoogle had manipulated its search results to produce negative information about Proposition 24. 

The measure would expand the state’s consumer data privacy laws, including provisions to allow consumers to direct businesses to not share their personal information. It would also remove the time period in which businesses can fix violations before being penalized and create the Privacy Protection Agency to enforce the state’s consumer data privacy laws.

According to the organization, searching for the measure on Google brings up a webpage to the Secretary of State’s office that lists the “cons” of the proposition, rather than the unbiased summary of the proposition 

The Secretary of State’s office removed the snippets that produced the search results on Thursday, the group said, but Consumer Watchdog is still calling on the elections committee to make a formal investigation.

“It would be an extraordinary coincidence that the one measure that threatens Google’s business model – forcing it to disclose the logic behind its algorithm and prevent it from using our most sensitive information – is also the only one that includes negative propaganda in the link to a nonpartisan source,” the letter said. 

Opponents of the ballot measure say Proposition 24 will weaken the state’s existing privacy laws. It is opposed by groups including the American Civil Liberties Unionin California and the California GOP, which says it creates a “new, unaccountable state bureaucracy with vast power over Californians’ personal information.”

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