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Facebook Exits Committee Fighting California Consumer Privacy Act

SAN FRANCISCO (KPIX 5) -- Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg is promising more transparency and new efforts to protect user privacy, but critics say the company is not always putting its money behind those ideas.

Facebook has been funding the opposition to a ballot initiative called the California Consumer Privacy Act, until Wednesday, when we once again asked the company why?

Facebook told KPIX 5 that it has now decided to pull out of the committee to oppose the bill, stating "We took this step in order to focus our efforts on supporting reasonable privacy measures in California."

Zuckerberg testified, "I can't be clearer on this topic. We don't sell data, that's not how advertising works."

Then why has Facebook been fighting the California Consumer Privacy Act?

The Associated Press reports that Facebook contributed $200,000 in February to a committee opposing the California Consumer Privacy Act.

The ballot initiative would give Californians the right to know what's being collected about them, the right to tell companies not to sell it, and would hold companies more responsible for keeping it safe.

These are all things Facebook says they already do.

But along with AT&T, Google, Verizon and Comcast, Facebook has been funding the fight against the ballot initiative.

The other companies did not respond to KPIX 5's requests for comment.

Steve Maviglio is the spokesperson for the Committee to Protect California Jobs.

"It's called the world wide web for a reason, not the California wide web," Maviglio said.

He says the initiative would put Californians at a disadvantage.

Google and Facebook would not create one policy for California and anther for the rest of the nation, rising the question: would this force Facebook to create one policy nationwide?

"No, not necessarily," said Maviglio. "We haven't see that with a lot of different business, we haven't seen that, for example, with our greenhouse gas emissions."

The opposition argues that the California Consumer Privacy Act would put undue burden on small businesses and open up companies to frivolous lawsuits.

But the folks behind it say it only applies to companies that make over $50 million a year, or data brokers who sell over 100,000 personal records, or make half their revenue off selling your data.

"People don't like it, but they put up with it because there's nothing really that you can do," said Alastair Mactaggart, who supports the California Consumer Privacy Act. "If you click 'no' on the privacy terms, you don't get the service."

Mactaggart says the privacy act would put an end to that. Companies couldn't penalize you for telling them not to sell you data.

But critics call the privacy act hypocritical.

Maviglio said, "The proponents of this are actually doing it themselves to increase their supporters and target voters."

The campaign against the initiative sent us a screenshot which they say shows numerous third-party sites collecting data from users on the privacy act's webpage.

The organizers of the California Consumer Privacy Act act tells us that's because, like on most websites, they have things like a Facebook 'like' button and Google Analytics, which allow those companies to track you. And that's the point.

Maviglio said, "This would be the first time any state or federal government even tried to regulate the Internet, a technology which is changing by the day."

He notes, unlike a bill, this is a ballot measure. Once passed it can't be amended, except by another ballot measure.

The initiative's authors say they added a clause, allowing the state attorney general to amend it as needed.

Mactaggart said, "...give people the power, if they want, to find out what these companies are collecting and say 'no don't sell it...'"

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