Facebook — along with Google, Comcast, AT&T and Verizon — had joined forces to get a bill in California about privacy killed. If passed, the bill would enable consumers to more easily find out what information was collected on them and opt out of the sale or sharing of their information. But with backlash mounting, Facebook has opted to pull out of the alliance.
According to a report in Ars Technica, Facebook and the rest of the companies donated $200,000 each to create a $1 million fund to oppose the legislation, which is called the California Consumer Privacy Act. Its a ballot question that may be voted on during the mid-term elections. While Facebook now says it won’t donate any additional funds to the opposition efforts, it doesn’t mean the company suddenly backs the bill. Its commitment not to provide more money to the fund comes as it is facing extreme backlash from lawmakers around the globe after it was revealed that Cambridge Analytica, the political consulting company that worked on President Donald Trump’s election, accessed the data on 87 million users without their consent.
“We’re gratified that Facebook has dropped its opposition to the California Consumer Privacy Act,” ballot question sponsor Alastair Mactaggart said in a statement Thursday (April 12). “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 noted that if the companies weren’t selling the personal data they collect, they wouldn’t be spending $1 million to oppose the bill. “We took this step in order to focus our efforts on supporting reasonable privacy measures in California,” a Facebook spokesperson said, without commenting further. Still, the report noted, Facebook’s change in stance won’t have much impact on the industry’s efforts to get it killed. After all, the money was already donated and Facebook hasn’t come out in support of the law. Facebook did not reply to Ars Technica’s efforts to see if the social media giant would attempt to get the $200,000 back.
The Committee to Protect California Jobs, which is the group fighting the bill, said in a statement that “Facebook has NOT dropped its opposition to the measure. It believes it is ‘flawed’ and continues to oppose it. The company simply formally dropped their participation in the ‘no’ campaign.” The group said the initiative will do “enormous harm to the Calfornia economy” and won’t protect anyone’s privacy. Facebook also didn’t show support for it in an email to KQED News, reported Ars Technica. “We do think the initiative is flawed and hope the Legislature will work out a strong solution to provide consumers the right to know what information is being collected and the ability to decide whether their information may be sold,” Facebook wrote in the email.