Facebook Scandal Fuels Campaign to Protect Consumer Privacy
Original article by Doug Sovern
A statewide petition drive for a California consumer privacy protection measure is getting an unexpected boost from the Facebook/Cambridge Analytica scandal, in which the private information of 50 million Facebook users was sold to a British firm that used it to help elect Donald Trump president.
The campaign was launched last fall, and Mary Ross, president of Californians For Consumer Privacy, tells KCBS Radio they are well on their way to gathering enough petition signatures to qualify the initiative for the November ballot.
“It’ll give all Californians the right to know what personal information big businesses are collecting about you. It’ll give you the right to tell a corporation not to sell your personal information,” Ross says. The measure would also allow consumers to hold companies accountable for a data breach. “What we see going on now with Facebook is exactly why we need this law to pass. Cambridge Analytica is a horrible thing, but it’s just the tip of the iceberg.”
Ross, a former CIA officer who lives in Oakland, has teamed up with Bay Area real estate developer Alastair MacTaggart to sponsor the measure. MacTaggart asked Facebook, Apple and Google to support the initiative, and even to help craft acceptable ballot language, but they declined. Now those tech giants are contributing at least a million dollars, and likely many millions more this fall, to defeat the measure, says MacTaggart.
“We are taking on the richest industry that the world has ever seen. My hope is that at some point, they are ashamed to be saying one thing, and spending money against it on the other side,” MacTaggart tells KCBS Radio. He’s sent a letter to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, urging him to “come clean” and either admit Facebook had a data breach, or that it sells its users’ personal information, which Zuckerberg insists it does not. MacTaggart is appealing to Zuckerberg to drop Facebook’s opposition to the initiative.
Ross and MacTaggart describe their campaign as a “David and Goliath fight.” They expect to easily collect more than the 365,880 signatures required by June to qualify their initiative for the November ballot.
Facebook did not respond to a request for comment from KCBS Radio, and has not responded to MacTaggart’s letter.