Facebook withdraws from group fighting a major California privacy initiative

Illustration by Alex Castro / The Verge

Facebook will stop funding and pull out of a group battling a major California privacy initiative, backers of the initiative announced, just after Mark Zuckerberg finished a two-day grilling from congressional lawmakers.

The proposed ballot measure, called the California Consumer Privacy Act, could come to a statewide vote in November. Under the act, businesses would be required to disclose what categories of data they’ve collected on users, if those users request it. Californians would also be able to request that their personal information not be sold.

Facebook has now left the Committee to Protect California Jobs, a campaign opposing the measure that’s also been backed by other major tech companies, including Google, Comcast, Verizon, and AT&T. The five companies reportedly donated $200,000 each to the campaign.

“The proposed measure simply disconnects California,” a spokesperson for the group opposing the initiative said. The campaign says it “will continue to proceed with an aggressive campaign.”

Zuckerberg was asked several times about privacy legislation during two days of congressional hearings this week. When asked about specific legislation and plans, Zuckerberg said repeatedly that certain ideas could “make sense,” but that “the details matter a lot.” Facebook has long used its lobbying weight to fight legislation that would expand user privacy at the cost of the company’s business interests.

Dropping opposition to the California ballot measure also hardly means Facebook is now offering its full support. “We took this step in order to focus our efforts on supporting reasonable privacy measures in California,” a spokesperson said in a statement.

Update, 3:05 PM ET: Includes a statement from group opposing the initiative.

Update, April 26th: Clarifies the scope of Facebook’s withdrawal.

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