Facebook Drops Opposition to Privacy Ballot Proposal
By Jenna Lyons
Facebook said Wednesday that it would no longer oppose a proposed state ballot initiative that aims to allow Web users to stop tech giants from selling personal information the companies collect about them, among other privacy protections.
Facebook's move came the day CEO Mark Zuckerberg wrapped up his marathon testimony before Congress, trying to ward off harsh regulations by convincing skeptical lawmakers that Facebook users have "complete control" over what information they share.
Proponents hope to get the California Consumer Privacy Act on the November ballot. The effort was started by San Francisco housing developer Alastair Mactaggart, co-owner of the Emerald Fund, a developer of transit-oriented housing. He's seeking to hold tech companies accountable for their pledges to respect user privacy.
Before its about-face, Facebook had been one of five large companies -- the others being Google, Comcast, Verizon and AT&T -- that put in $200,000 each to fight the initiative. The California Chamber of Commerce has also taken a stand against the measure.
"We took this step in order to focus our efforts on supporting reasonable privacy measures in California," a Facebook spokesperson wrote in an email.
Mactaggart, in a statement Wednesday, called on the remaining tech giants to "stop business as usual and to step up and do the right thing."
"We're gratified that Facebook has dropped its opposition to the California Consumer Privacy Act. Now that they have seen the error of their ways, we hope they will work with us proactively to protect the personal information of all Californians, and support us publicly and financially," he said. "We believe that all consumers deserve the basic rights outlined in our initiative."
The Committee to Protect California Jobs, which opposes the ballot measure, said that it "is unworkable and requires the Internet in California to operate differently -- limiting our choices, hurting our businesses, and cutting our connection to the global economy."
The ballot initiative seeks protections for consumers who may become victims from data breaches. It would permit them to sue companies for damages even without proving they had suffered harm from having their data shared.
It would also allow consumers to ask that companies not share their data, without those consumers incurring any penalties or extra charges.
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