(Courtesy photo)

(Courtesy photo)

Amid Cambridge Analytica debacle, California privacy advocates ask Facebook to stop opposing their proposed ballot measure

The lead proponent behind a proposed voter measure that would expand online privacy protections for California consumers has a message for Facebook Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg: “Put your money where your mouth is.”

In a letter to Zuckerberg, emailed to the social media company and posted on Zuckerberg’s Facebook page, Alastair Mactaggart, chairman of Californians for Consumer Privacy, says he was disappointed to learn Facebook has chosen not to support the privacy ballot campaign — and is pouring hundreds of thousands of dollars into an attempt to sink privacy advocates’ efforts.

The letter comes as the Federal Trade Commission has opened an investigation into how a data analytics firm founded by Stephen Bannon and Republican donor Robert Mercer, Cambridge Analytica, accessed the personal data of 50 million Facebook users, without their knowledge, to help elect President Trump.

On Tuesday, Cambridge Analytica suspended chief executive Alexander Nix pending an investigation into an undercover report by Britain’s Channel 4, in which he offered to entrap politicians to help potential clients swing elections.

“Something’s not adding up here,” Mactaggart writes. “It is time to be honest with Facebook users and shareholders about what information was collected, sold or breached in the Cambridge Analytica debacle; and to come clean about the true basis for your opposition to the California Consumer Privacy Act of 2018.”

Facebook did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The state consumer privacy act, a proposed 2018 ballot measure, would require companies to disclose what personal information from Californians they collect, buy or share. It would allow many consumers to “opt out” from those practices and would prevent businesses from charging a higher price to those who make that choice.

The ballot measure also would give new power to prosecutors and residents to file civil lawsuits after a data breach or for selling their personal information.

Mactaggart, a San Francisco real estate developer, has said he and privacy advocates want to shift the balance of power over data sharing to consumers. They met with representatives from major tech companies, including Facebook, Apple and Google, in December in an attempt to win over their support.

They were noncommittal, Mactaggart said, but in February, Facebook joined Google, Comcast, Verizon and AT&T to contribute more than $1 million to a political action committee set up to oppose the measure.

“Right now, [Facebook’s] money is saying something differently than what they are telling the world,” he said Tuesday.


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