Facebook Drops Opposition To California Privacy Proposal

Faced with ongoing concerns over users' privacy, Facebook says it will stop opposing a California proposal that would give consumers the right to stop their personal information from being sold or shared by companies.

“We took this step in order to focus our efforts on supporting reasonable privacy measures in California,” the company stated late Wednesday, shortly after CEO Mark Zuckerberg wrapped up two days of testimony on Capitol Hill.

If passed, the California Consumer Right to Privacy Act would give consumers the right to learn the "categories" of personal information collected and shared about them by all companies -- brick-and-mortar as well as online. The proposed measure also gives consumers the right to prevent that data from being shared. Backers say they expect to garner the 365,880 signatures needed for the measure to appear on the ballot this November.

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While Facebook says it will no longer fight the proposal, the company is only making that decision after spending $200,000 to lobby against it. Google, Comcast, Verizon and AT&T -- which also opposed the measure -- haven't publicly backed away from that position.

The ballot effort in California comes several months after Silicon Valley companies, broadband providers and the ad industry teamed up to kill a proposed state privacy bill that would have recreated regulations passed by the Obama-era Federal Communications Commission. That bill would have required Internet service providers -- but not other web companies -- to obtain consumers' opt-in consent before using their web-browsing information for targeted advertising. The California bill also would have prohibited ISPs from using "pay-for-privacy" billing schemes, which involve charging customers higher fees to avoid targeted ads.

That measure stalled last September in California's Senate after intense lobbying by the Association of National Advertisers and other business groups, which made the counterintuitive claim that the bill would increase the likelihood of cyberthreats. Specifically, opponents argued that the bill would lead to recurring pop-ups that sought consumers' opt-in consent; those pop-ups would "be desensitizing" to consumers, who would then be more susceptible to threats from hackers, according to the business groups.

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