California Privacy Advocates Ask Facebook Why It’s Opposing Proposed Ballot Measure
By Levi Sumagaysay, THE MERCURY NEWS - SILICON BEAT BLOG
March 22, 2018
When Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg finally spoke Wednesday after five days of silence about the company’s latest major crisis, he said during a television interview that he wasn’t “sure we shouldn’t be regulated.”
Why, then, is Facebook opposing the California Consumer Privacy Act of 2018? That’s what the lead proponent of a proposed state ballot initiative wants to know.
“It drives me a little crazy that the company says it puts privacy first and it’s at the center of everything they do,” Alastair Mactaggart, a San Francisco real estate developer, told this publication Wednesday.
This week, Mactaggart penned an open letter to Zuckerberg, in which he referenced the Cambridge Analytica mess and called the Facebook CEO out for funding an effort to defeat his measure.
“When we were drafting the initiative, we reached out to Facebook to try to enlist its support,” he wrote. “We were… disappointed to learn that on February 27, 2018, Facebook joined Comcast, Verizon, AT&T, and Google, to contribute over $1 million to a political action committee you set up to oppose the measure.”
He said he and his group, Californians for Consumer Privacy, have not heard back from Facebook.
State records show Facebook and Google contributed $200,000 each to the Committee to Protect California Jobs. Comcast and Verizon each contributed the same amount, according to the late contribution report filed with California’s secretary of state. A separate report shows a $200,000 donation by AT&T. The reports filed with the state show either the California Chamber of Commerce or the California Chamber of Commerce and “a Coalition of Innovation Companies” as filers.
Google has not returned a request for comment Thursday. Facebook has not returned repeated requests for comment.
Mactaggart said his effort is “on track” when it comes to collecting enough signatures to qualify the initiative for the November ballot. The measure — which he decided to back after talking to a Google worker at a cocktail party, plus seeing a friend deal with identity theft — seeks to do three main things:
- Allow consumers to see what information big businesses collect about them.
- Allow consumers to ask corporations to stop selling their personal information without being discriminated against by doing so.
- Hold businesses accountable for data breaches.
Consumer Watchdog, a group that criticizes tech companies loudly and often, is throwing Zuckerberg’s Wednesday mea culpa back at him.
“In a Facebook post on Wednesday Zuckerberg wrote, ‘We have a responsibility to protect your data, and if we can’t then we don’t deserve to serve you’,” the group said in a news release Thursday.
But the release goes on to quote John Simpson, director of its privacy project: “That’s meaningless blather unless Facebook takes action to protect users’ data.”
So what might Zuckerberg have been referring to when he signaled being open to regulation?
“I think in general, technology is an increasingly important trend in the world, and I actually think the question is more, ‘What is the right regulation?’ rather than, ‘Yes or no, should it be regulated?” Zuckerberg told CNN’s Laurie Segall.
“There are things like ads transparency regulation that I would love to see,” he said.
Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minnesota, took that to mean that Zuckerberg supports her Honest Ads Act, which would introduce transparency to online political advertising.
“Just watched Mark Zuckerberg on @CNN & I was surprised to hear him say he supported the senate bill on election ads,” she tweeted Wednesday. “That’s my bill—the Honest Ads Act—w/ @SenJohnMcCain & @MarkWarner ..It’s a new position for Facebook & we’d like to get it done before election. Twitter? Google?”
Levi Sumagaysay is editor for the Bay Area News Group in charge of the SiliconBeat.com technology blog and Good Morning Silicon Valley newsletter.