BAILEY T. STEEN | THURSDAY, 29 JUNE, 2018
Number of days since Facebook’s last privacy scandal: 
Mark Zuckerberg’s disgraced social media giant is no friend to privacy hawks. Following the wide-spread Cambridge Analytica scandal and a recent report published by The New York Times, exposing the company for data-sharing partnerships with device makers compromised by both the Chinese government and the National Security Agency (NSA), Facebook are now attempting to undermine privacy laws the company violates to this day.
California lawmakers Ed Chau and Robert Hertzberg have decided to introduce The California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA), a sweeping new piece of privacy legislation that, through a ballot initiative, would grant California residents concrete control over their personal data and wield restrictions on Silicon Valley’s techno-libertarian giants such as Google, Twitter and Facebook — the usual suspects of data-privacy violations.
The CCPA allows users the right to own their data, easily opt out of a companies’ data harvesting tactics and prevents the sale of such personal information and data without considerable consent. They continue to give clear definitions of what constitutes “personal information”, which include details one: “geolocation, biometrics and browsing history”. The legislation, set to be voted on during the 2018 mid-terms come November, would give users clear grounds to pursue legal action against tech companies in the event violations of privacy rights are infringed upon.
There’s only one problem: the political lobbying firms trying to prevent a vote on the legislation. According to internal emails obtained by The Intercept, establishment firms such as TechNet, the Internet Association and the Computing Technology Industry Association are working on behalf of Facebook and company to try and scrap the CCPA, expecting to lose the argument if left to a public vote in their working district, knowing the financial and labouring cost of the bill will echo the European Union’s incredibly strict GDPR protections that were enforced in late May.
The report mentions a woman by the name of Andrea Deveau, a lobbyist for TechNet, who has frequently updated the companies and firms on strategies to “water down” to bill’s scope. Significant changes from the CCPA to AB-375 would remove the right of consumers to directly sue the companies for misuse of their data. This is particularly interesting since, not too long ago, the GDPR rules allowed None of Your Business, a privacy group led by Austrian lawyer Max Schrems, to sue Facebook and Google for $8.8 billion in damages for data breaches and the misuse of private information. These companies, of course, have a vested interest in not fighting lawsuit wars on two fronts.
It’s hard not to see why they want this section eliminated entirely. Instead, their alternative seeks to grant these powers to the attorney general, meaning their violations are at the mercy of unelected bureaucrats appointed by those who occupy the highest office in the land. Considering President Donald Trump is known for unconstitutionally blocking his own citizens on Twitter, this would be a disaster given the public will need to somehow reach the ear of the troll-in-chief and his administration just to seek legal representation, let alone Democrats tech giants are known to heavily finance during elections.
Listed as being involved in the lobbying coalition to change to law include the likes of: “Ryan Harkins, Microsoft’s director of state affairs and public policy; Walter Hughes, Comcast’s state director of government affairs; Mufaddal Ezzy, Google’s California manager of public policy and government relations for Google; Kate Ijams, AT&T’s public affairs specialist; Lisa Kohn, Amazon’s senior manager for public policy and Ann Blackwood, Facebook’s own head of public policy for western states.”
Journalist Lee Fang notes the inclusion of Facebook representatives is incredibly rich given their April announcement to stop opposing the CCPA, only after the Cambridge Analytica scandal garnered constant media coverage around the world. Considering their investment of $200,000 to the bill’s counter-campaigns in February, it’s clearly no change of heart that made Facebook, in public, drop their opposition. It was political attempts to save face as the company stared down the aggrieved public.
This lead Facebook’s representatives to confirm their involvement in opposing the bill:“People should be in control of their information online and companies should be held to high standards in explaining what data they have and how they use it, especially when they sell data,” Will Castleberry told The Intercept in a prepared statement.“We are committed to being clear with people about how our services work, including the fact that we do not sell people’s data. In that spirit, while not perfect, we support AB375 and look forward to working with policymakers on an approach that protects consumers and promotes responsible innovation.”
But how can Facebook claim to be responsible? It was just last week that a new report from TechCrunch revealed Facebook “accidentally” leaked analytics reports from developers to app testers, not the original owners of such business information. One of the developers contacted the publication revealing that their Facebook App Analytics summary email had been sent to someone outside their company — containing private data such as weekly average users, page views and new users.
Such information, within the wrong hands, can manipulate the market in the form of biased stock trading to unfair competitive advantages or leverage over the company obtained through unethical leaks. While TechCrunch note no personal data was leaked, why should they be treated as above the law entities and not held to the legal account of the people? Why the middle man half measure sure to leave them with a million more in pocket? How does any of this give consumers control they deserve? Unless, of course, these companies only have high standards when it comes to selling bullshit lies and know how to use exploited data when they wield it.
This is to be expected. It’s Facebook, after all.
Thanks for reading!
Bailey T. Steen is a journalist, editor, artist and film critic based in Victoria, Australia, but is also Putin’s Puppet™ on occasion.
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Cheers, darlings!! 💋