Facebook Scandal Accelerates California Privacy Ballot Initiative

FILE - In this June 11, 2014, file photo, a man walks past a mural in an office on the Facebook campus in Menlo Park, Calif. Some Facebook users received an unsettling shock Friday, Nov. 11, 2016, when an unexplained glitch caused the social networking service to post a notice …
AP/Jeff Chiu
Newport Beach, CA

The Facebook scandal over selling customers’ deepest secrets for huge amounts of cash has accelerated signature-gathering efforts for a “Privacy Act” initiative on California’s ballot.

The six-day-old Facebook scandal regarding Cambridge Analytica caused a panic in tech stocks Tuesday after whistleblower Christopher Wylie told the British Parliament that Facebook and others can listen to users at home or at work through cell phone apps.

The so-called FANG stocks (Facebook, Apple, Netflix, and Google) crashed, with Facebook down 5 percent, Amazon off by 4 percent, Netflix falling 6.2 percent, and Google-parent Alphabet lower by 4.7 percent. Other tech names down in sympathy included Twitter (plunging 12 percent) and Tesla (tanking by 8.2 percent).

That is all good news for San Francisco real estate developer Alastair MacTaggart. He put up the first $1.4 million necessary to form the Californians for Consumer Privacy organization and launch an initiative that the California Attorney General titled: “Establishes New Consumer Privacy Rights; Expands Liability For Consumer Data Breaches.”

The measure essentially would require businesses to display a button on their website that allows California Internet users the ability to click, “Do Not Sell My Personal Information.” Clicking the button would launch a form to permanently opt out. Failure to honor opt-out requests would allow consumers or public agencies the right to sue businesses for security breaches of consumers’ data, even if they could not prove injury.

Signature gatherers around the state have told MacTaggart the only people not interested in signing the petitions were folks in too much of a hurry. The idea of a law requiring customer permission to gather, exchange, and sell personal data was so attractive that by late February,  the initiative had gathered and turned in 100,000 of the 365,880 valid signatures needed by April 24, 2018 to qualify for the ballot.

The effort has also been endorsed by the Consumer Federation of California, DuckDuckGo, Consumers Union, and Catalina’s List among others.

 

Advocates for the California Consumer Privacy Act claim there is an “expectation gap” between what the public believes Internet companies do, and the reality of just how intrusive the corporations collect, sell, and disclose personal information to third parties.

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