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Facebook drops opposition to consumer privacy legislation

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Following two days of questioning of CEO Mark Zuckerberg before Congress, Facebook has announced that it will stop campaigning against a proposed Californian law intended to protect consumer privacy.

The California Consumer Privacy Act 2018 is focused on transparency, accountability and consumer control. It proposes that companies must disclose what types of personal information they are collecting and who it is being sold to and that consumers must be allowed to forbid companies from selling their personal information without retribution. Businesses could, according to the bill, be held accountable to victims of data breaches.

A state-wide vote on the bill is scheduled for November.

During his two-day appearance before Congress this week, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg stated that Facebook does not sell user data. Facebook’s policy is to store user and analyse data internally and monetise this data by selling targeted advertisements.

“We do not sell data to advertisers. We do not sell data to anyone,” he said. “What we allow is for advertisers to tell us who they want to reach and then we do the placement.”

While Zuckerberg averted any major embarrassments during the Congress sessions, the public outcry surrounding Facebook following reports that the personal information of an estimated 87 million users had been extracted and used by a data analytics company, Cambridge Analytica, to develop tools used for targeting political advertisements based on personality profiles of users.

Alastair McTaggart, Chairman of Californians for Consumer Privacy, said that he was “gratified” that Facebook had dropped its opposition to the bill.

“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 said in a statement. “We believe that all consumers deserve the basic rights outlined in our initiative.”

“We call on the remaining corporations to who have contributed to the Super PAC opposing this common sense measure to drop their opposition […] if you are not selling our personal information, why are you spending millions of dollars to oppose us?”

In a statement to Gizmodo, a spokesperson for the Committee to Protect California Jobs stated that Facebook still considered the bill to be “flawed”, and that the measure would do “enormous harm to the California economy while not protecting anyone’s privacy”.

Google, Comcast, AT&T and Verizon are among other major companies that have been campaigning against the measure.

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