Facebook And Twitter Hope To Fix California's Troubled Privacy Law With...Misleading Ads?

from the you're-not-helping dept

With the federal government doing little to pass a real privacy law for the modern era, states have begun rushing into the void. That's unfortunately resulting in some state privacy laws that are a lacking in the...quality department. That's been particularly true in California, where the government recently passed the new California Consumer Privacy Act. While the law may be well intentioned, we've noted how the rushed bill has plenty of problems that need fixing if it's ever going to actually work. Murky definitions and drafting errors leave the bill a bit of a muddled mess, with the potential to even undermine other, existing laws.

While all sides of the debate have descended upon the California legislature in a bid to try and fix the bill's language, Silicon Valley lobbying giants have been busy running some highly misleading ads in a bid to try and soften the bill. Under the banner of "Keep the Internet Free," the Google, Twitter, Facebook, and Microsoft-backed Internet Association has been running ads trying to claim that the bill would result in users having to pay errant fees just to use the internet:

"The FREE websites and apps you use every day could start costing you,” announced one such ad on Twitter.

“Using the internet shouldn’t hurt your wallet,” began another that predicted browsing the Web could someday seem like paying at the pump for gasoline."

And while California's proposal certainly has numerous problems, any claim it's going to result in the internet being turned into some kind of pay-to-play hellscape is just nonsense. Sacramento-area users who actually click on the ad are directed to a website that further tries to suggest the new bill will suddenly have users paying to access social media in much the same way they have to pay to buy gasoline:

This obviously isn't the Internet Association's first foray into misleading privacy lobbying. Silicon Valley worked hand in hand with the telecom sector early on to try and stall California's privacy law efforts, pushing ads and talking points claiming that a state-level privacy law would embolden extremists, endanger children, and litter the internet with annoying popups, none of which was actually true. This was after telecom and Silicon Valley worked hand in hand to kill some fairly modest (and far better written) FCC privacy rules back in 2017.

Granted, Silicon Valley giants have some very good reasons to oppose the California bill, given it's rushed and sloppy language could easily result in steeper additional operational costs and numerous unforseen headaches.

At the same time, it's oddly understated that these companies would much prefer it if no privacy law were passed at all, and if a bill is passed, they'd prefer it be loaded with so many loopholes as to be largely useless. Even if the bill lacked troubling language, no major company actually wants to suddenly face million/billion dollar losses due to restrictions on data monetization or behavioral ads, and the combined lobbying firepower of the telecom, tech, insurance, healthcare, and marketing industries makes passing any privacy law with teeth a steep uphill climb.

The problem in California is the bill is slated to go live (warts and all) on January 1, though actual enforcement isn't expected until at least next summer. Efforts by privacy advocates to strengthen the bill have stalled, so their focus now is simply keeping the tougher portions of the bill intact:

"After two failed bids to strengthen the 2018 law, data-privacy advocates say their goal for the year is simply to keep the Privacy Act intact.

"We’re basically looking to hold the line on everything." said Lee Tien, a senior staff attorney for the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a San Francisco-based group that advocates for stronger consumer protections online. "We’re watching for gut-and-amends and the usual shenanigans on the floor."

In contrast, the tech sector's goal is to try and weaken the definitions of what's collected, how it can be shared, and who it can be sold to. And while the industry certainly has plenty of other of legitimate reasons to oppose the bill as currently written, further muddying the waters with additional layers of misleading advertising isn't likely to help their cause.

Filed Under: ads, california, ccpa, lobbying, misleading ads, privacy
Companies: facebook, google, internet association

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  1. icon
    ECA (profile), 4 Sep 2019 @ 9:54am

    Dont you love,,,

    Lawyer speak, and how the best things to say...
    "the rushed bill has plenty of problems that need fixing if it's ever going to actually work. "

    Anyone here think we could do better? WHY not send in our own? To every State, then watch them edit it.

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