Facebook to Stop Fighting California Privacy Measure

CAL MATTERS--As Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg wrapped up a second day being grilled by Congressabout whether the company adequately protects the personal data of its 2 billion users, news brokein California that Facebook will stop spending money to oppose a privacy measure aiming for the state’s November ballot.

Facebook is one of five tech companies that have contributed $200,000 a piece to a committee that is fighting the California Consumer Privacy Act, which would allow Californians to prohibit companies from selling or sharing their personal data. Opponents—which include Google, AT&T, Comcast, Verizon, the Internet Association and the California Chamber of Commerce—argue that the measure would be disastrous for the internet economy and cause problems by subjecting one state to a different set of rules on the global network.

Supporters of the measure funded by San Francisco real estate developer Alastair Mactaggart have seized on recent news that Facebook allowed the data of more than 80 million users to be accessed by a political consulting firm tied to Donald Trump’s campaign. In one recent publicity stunt, the campaign hand-delivered a letterto Facebook asking it to stop fighting the privacy measure. Did it actually work?

“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,” said a statement from Mactaggart, the initiative’s proponent.

A spokesman for the campaign against the measure said Facebook continues to oppose the privacy initiative; it just decided not to give any more money to the committee fighting it.

“The proposed measure simply disconnects California. It is unworkable,” said a statement from spokesman Steve Maviglio. “That is why we will continue to proceed with an aggressive campaign, including major announcements of new opposition in the next few weeks.”

And in case you’re wondering about that $200,000 contribution: Maviglio said Facebook did not ask for a refund.

(Laurel Rosenhall is a political reporter who covers California politics for CALmatters, with a focus on power and personalities in the statehouse. This piece was posted first at CALmatters.)