Microsoft, Amazon, and Uber donated large amounts of money to eradicate the California Consumer Privacy Act.
On May 25, the General data protection regulation was implemented in Europe. All European citizens now need to give their consent in order for companies to have, use, and hold their personal data. On the other hand, all businesses working within the European Economic Area must oblige to the GDPR. Since its implantation on the European soil, companies already have found ways of hijacking the new law, which seems really difficult and tricky to apply.
Yet, international organizations, communities and even companies believe this kind of regulation is much needed in our current society, especially after recent scandals such as the Facebook/Cambridge Analytica outrage. In the U.S, for example, people are asking for a similar legislation : the California Consumer Privacy Act.
This Californian Act would, in some ways like the European one, oblige companies in California to disclose the data they are collecting on their consumers. This would imply sharing the process through which they target ads based on a consumer’s personal information. Companies would need to offer their consumers the option of preventing the acquisition of their personal data to other companies.
One thing to note is that online advertisers will eventually face stricter rules on how they track people across the web and target too.
It’s likely it’ll require all web browsers to request users to opt in to tracking. Safari, for instance, has already started fighting against automated and cross-site tracking. The browser used to wait 24 hours from your last visit to a service before blocking that service’s cookies on third-party sites. Now, Safari will either block the cookie automatically or prompt you for permission.
Amazon and Microsoft each donated $195.000, to the Committee to Protect California Jobs, working against the California Consumer Privacy Act, while Uber donated $50.000 to block the measure. Numerous other tech giants such as Google, Verizon, and Facebook each donated $200.000 to the Committee sponsored by the Chamber of Finance. Following the backlash of the privacy scandal, Facebook had announced withdrawing its donation.
What is the California Consumer Privacy Act ?
The CCPA wants three things for the consumer : transparency, control, and accountability. The privacy initiative believes the consumer has the right to know exactly the extent of the personal information a company has on their consumers. The consumer should also be able to have control over that information and prevent its circulation. In the event of a leak, the companies would be held accountable.
The campaign chair, Alastair Mactaggart, states that his motivation to present the Act comes from a conversation he had a few years ago with an engineer working for Google who told him “if people just understood how much we knew about them, they’d be really worried.”
In a letter he published on the Privacy Act’s internet page, Mr. Mactaggart explained his reasoning for financing himself the whole process: “We are not convinced that these corporations take this [privacy] responsibility seriously.”
The California Consumer Privacy Act has gathered 637.000 signatures — almost twice the number required — and it will possibly qualify for the ballot at the end of June. The state first needs to verify if those signatures are legitimate.
What does the Committee to protect California Jobs want ?
In a statement made on May 3, 2018, the three leaders of the Committee to Protect California Jobs, Andrea Deveau of TechNet, Robert Callahan of the Internet Association, and Allan Zaremberg of the Chamber of Commerce, said “it is unworkable, requiring the internet and businesses in California to operate differently than the rest of the world — limiting our choices, hurting our businesses, and cutting our connection to the global economy.”
Microsoft exposed a similar thought in a statement: “We believe the California measure could have unintended consequences for both businesses and consumers and that there is a better way to give consumers the privacy rights they deserve.” Amazon reciprocated when a spokesman said, “While we share the initiative’s overarching goal of protecting consumer privacy, we are concerned by unworkable requirements that would hinder our ability to innovate on behalf of our customers.”
The project will not only affect big tech companies. Steven Maviglio, a spokesman for the Committee to protect California Jobs said, “Credit unions, grocers, and car manufacturers are among the many recent additions to the coalition and are the top of the iceberg.”
Europe and its much a like regulation
Microsoft was accused of hypocrisy by the Privacy Act’s supporters when it was made public that the company was supporting Europe’s General data protection regulation while giving money to the Committee working against the Privacy Act.
Microsoft responded with a statement reaffirming their support for the GDPR but (still) criticizing the privacy initiative: “We believe the California measure could have unintended consequences for both businesses and consumers and that there is a better way to give consumers the privacy rights they deserve.”
Chances are, you remember the case of the consulting firm Cambridge Analytica that sold personal information of more than fifty million Facebook users to clients, including the Trump campaign. The California Consumer Privacy Act is trying to make impossible that type of practice. The considerable amount of donations made to counter the project could suggest its doomed fate, but the vote has not yet been taken and Mr. Mactaggart remains optimistic.