FOR THE largest technology
and telecommunications firms have only three days to
prevent the California Consumer Privacy Act, or CCPA, a
ballot initiative that would usher in the strongest
consumer privacy standards in the country, from going
before state voters this November.
initiative allows consumers to opt out of the sale and
collection of their personal data, and vastly expands the
definition of personal information to include geolocation,
biometrics, and browsing history. The initiative also
allows consumers to pursue legal action for violations of
idea that Californians might gain sweeping new privacy
rights has spooked Silicon Valley, internet service
providers, and other industries that increasingly rely on
data collection, leading to a lobbying push to defeat the
initiative before it gains traction. Their best hope may
be to convince the sponsors of the initiative, including
San Francisco real estate developer Alastair
Mactaggart, to pull the proposal in exchange
for compromise privacy legislation, AB 375, which would
achieve some of the same goals of the initiative.
Lawmakers behind the legislation, led by state Assembly
Member Ed Chau, D-Monterey Park, and state Sen.
Robert Hertzberg, D-Van Nuys, have promised to swiftly
pass their bill this week if sponsors withdraw the CCPA.
obtained by The Intercept reveal that tech giants are
fighting behind the scenes to water down the privacy
legislation, hoping to prevent an expensive and
potentially losing ballot fight this year.
Deveau, a lobbyist for TechNet, a trade group for Google,
Facebook, and other tech companies, has continually
updated an ad-hoc business lobbying coalition formed to
defeat the CCPA. In an update sent on Sunday evening,
Deveau provided a “compilation of feedback re: the most
problematic aspects of AB 375.”
her update, she listed a vast array of changes lobbyists
are still seeking, including a rewrite of the privacy
law’s description of what counts as personal information,
changes to the conditions under which a consumer can seek
legal action, the preservation of arbitration clauses in
consumer contracts, and the removal of the mandate that
firms display a button on their homepage giving consumers
a clear way of opting out of data collection, among other
are seeking a rewrite of what counts as personal
information, the preservation of arbitration clauses, and
the removal of the mandate for a button to opt out of data
the last few days, Deveau has continued to update a
coalition of Sacramento lobbyists of her team’s efforts to
ensure that if AB 375 passes, the bill provides
significant changes compared to the original CCPA.
lobbying coalition convened by Deveau over
email includes Ryan Harkins, director of state
affairs and public policy at Microsoft; Walter Hughes, the
state director of government affairs at Comcast; Mufaddal
Ezzy, the California manager of public policy and
government relations for Google; Ann Blackwood, the head
of public policy for western states at Facebook; Lisa
Kohn, the senior manager for public policy at Amazon; Curt
Augustine, the senior director of policy and government
affairs for the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers; Brad
Weltman, the vice president for public policy at the
Interactive Advertising Bureau; and Kate Ijams,
a public affairs specialist at AT&T.
inclusion of a Facebook representative is notable, given
the company’s well-publicized announcement earlier this
year that it would end its opposition to the initiative.
In February, the company provided $200,000 to an account
set up by the California Chamber of Commerce designed to
defeat the CCPA initiative. But in April, following
revelations about the extent to which British consulting
firm Cambridge Analytica provided the Donald
Trump campaign with illicit access to Facebook user data,
Facebook announced that it would withdraw its opposition
to CCPA and not provide additional funding to the Chamber
lobbyist this week joined conference calls to strategize
about ways to undermine CCPA and the email chains show
that Facebook representatives have continued to receive
updates from industry allies on ways in which to undermine
the CCPA. The firm, however, has maintained its promise
not to pledge new money to the opposition effort.
confirmed its ongoing involvement fighting CCPA. “People
should be in control of their information online and
companies should be held to high standards in explaining
what data they have and how they use it, especially when
they sell data,” read a statement provided to The
Intercept and attributed to Will Castleberry,
Facebook’s vice president of state and local public
policy. “We are committed to being clear with people about
how our services work, including the fact that we do not
sell people’s data. In that spirit, while not perfect, we
support AB375 and look forward to working with
policymakers on an approach that protects consumers and
promotes responsible innovation.”
addition to Facebook, Google, AT&T, Microsoft,
Amazon, Verizon, and the California New Car Dealers
Association have each contributed six figure donations to
the Chamber account set up to defeat CCPA. Uber, the
Data & Marketing Association, Cox Communications, and
the Interactive Advertising Bureau have each contributed
$50,000 to the account, according to disclosures.
should assume we are going to the ballot to fight the
Initiative and determine your appetite to fight.”
experts believe the cost of the campaign could run into
well over $100 million or more if the initiative goes
before voters this fall. On Monday, the California
Secretary of State officially qualified the CCPA
initiative, confirming the
campaign turned in enough valid signatures.
campaign finance law mandates that the largest donors to a
campaign are listed at the end of each advertisement.
Though Silicon Valley firms have the most to lose from the
enactment of the CCPA, brand names such as Google and
Amazon are nervous to have their logos associated with a
slash and burn election effort in opposition to privacy
tech and cable firms opposed to the bill have leaned
heavily on their respective trade associations such as
TechNet to head off the initiative.
her email to the ad-hoc coalition, Deveau noted
that AB 375 was moving fast, and that changes to the
legislation would have to happen quickly over the coming
days. If substantial changes were not made, she encouraged
the lobbyists to prepare to begin raising cash for a
pricey campaign over CCPA later this year.
the meantime, you should assume that we are going to the
ballot to fight the Initiative and determine your appetite
or the appetite of your clients/members to fight the
ballot initiative (meaning push hard to get a sense of how
much you/they might be willing to contribute to the
opposition campaign) if they feel they cannot live with
this new language,” Deveau warned.
CURRENT DRAFT of AB 375, released
yesterday, shows that the compromise legislation already
differs in several key areas. The legislation, as opposed
to CCPA, largely removes the right for consumers to take
their own legal action, instead delegating power for
enforcement to the attorney general in most circumstances.
Consumer Privacy Act prohibited businesses from
denying services, charging different rates for the same
services, or providing different levels or quality of
services, in response to a consumer request that they
stop selling data,” said Lily Li, a privacy attorney and
owner of Metaverse Law.
contrast, Li said, “AB 375 generally prohibits such price
or service discrimination, but provides a carveout in
situations where the difference in price or quality ‘is
directly related to the value provided to the consumer by
the consumer’s data.’”
tech lobbying team met yesterday with Hertzberg and Gov.
Jerry Brown’s office, along with the leadership of both
houses of the California legislature. In a follow-up
email, Deveau confirmed the Monday morning meeting between
Hertzberg and the “folks leading the charge on the privacy
initiative opposition campaign.”
new bill, crafted behind closed doors by the sponsors and
lobbyists, has pleased some privacy advocates as decent
compromise that still provides strong new protections for
stakes are astronomical.”
Watchdog, a consumer advocacy group, endorsed the new AB
375 legislation, calling it an agreement that enacts
“meaningful privacy protections” while avoiding a costly
ballot initiative battle. “If the initiative ends up on
the ballot, Consumer Watchdog will work for its passage.
Now, however, we support the AB 375 compromise,” declared John
Simpson, director of the group’s Privacy and Technology
the new bill was officially unveiled Tuesday morning, the
tech lobby joined other industry groups in Sacramento
to express their concerns that the revised AB 375 bill
still provided too many risks for business
business community is in an untenable situation. Although
AB 375 is deeply flawed, the privacy initiative is even
worse. The stakes are astronomical because if the
initiative is passed, the legislature will be virtually
unable to amend the law in the future,” said Sarah Boot, a
lobbyist with the California Chamber of Commerce and the
first person to testify in opposition to the legislation
at the Senate Judiciary Committee, which in turn is the
first committee to oversee the compromise legislation.
Boot spoke, a parade of other lobbyists moved to the dais
to register their disapproval and agree with Boot. No tech
company executives or lobbyists appeared publicly, but
multiple trade groups representing Silicon Valley spoke up
to associate themselves with Boot’s remarks. TechNet’s
Deveau, along with representatives of the Internet
Association and the Computing Technology Industry
Association, agreed that they deeply opposed AB 375, but
found the legislation preferable over CCPA.
we are, at the last minute, there’s an initiative on the
ballot,” said state Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson, D-Santa
Barbara, the chair of the committee, conceding that
although the initiative was far from ideal, the issue had
been forced because the legislature had not moved on any
major privacy legislation.
stepped forward and now we are in a Hobson’s choice.
Either this goes to the ballot and is a hundred million
dollars or more I’m told is likely to be spent. Or if the
bill is killed we’re back at ground zero,” Jackson said
with a sigh.
a brief debate, with Chau and Mactaggart answering
questions about the bill, the committee passed the
legislation. But whether it will be signed by the governor
by Thursday to head off the initiative is yet to be seen.
photo: Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg speaks during the
annual F8 summit in San Jose, Calif., on May 1, 2018.