PRIVACY BEAT: EFF stays neutral on Prop 24; calls it ‘mixed bag” and worries about ‘pay for privacy’ implications

PRIVACY BEAT: EFF stays neutral on Prop 24; calls it ‘mixed bag” and worries about ‘pay for privacy’ implications

Privacy Beat

Your weekly privacy news update.


EFF stays neutral on Prop 24; calls it ‘mixed bag’ and worries about ‘pay for privacy’ implications 

The Electronic Frontier Foundation, a prominent privacy-rights advocate, has chosen to go neutral on Proposition 24, the California Privacy Rights Act (CPRA)  ballot initiative. In a blog post, EFF’s Lee Tien, Adam Schwarz and Hayley Tsukayama said the nonprofit is working to strengthen the state’s new California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA), through legislative amendments. 

“Prop 24 does not do enough to advance the privacy of California consumers,” they write. “It is a mixed bag of partial steps backwards and forwards.”  The trio of writers argues Prop 24 permits “pay for privacy” (financial incentive) programs, including loyalty clubs, saying such programs expand economic inequality and force consumers to exchange privacy for special services. The state Democratic Party organization is also neutral. 

  Meanwhile, the state published the draft language for the Proposition 24 voters guide, including arguments from proponents and opponents. Four practitioners in the Troutman Pepper law firm blogged about the documents. (See Quote of the Week, below). 

Noted institutional supporters of Prop 24 include the California NAACP and the Common Sense Media childrens’ privacy group and Consumer Reports. 

Noted opponents are the California Consumer Federation, and the California ACLU. The Consumer Federation Tweeted that Prop 24 “changes the law to allow businesses to continue secretly collecting confidential information on workers and job applicants.” 

 A new group, Californians for Real Privacy, is also opposed. In their July 22 opening unsigned news release, the group wrote: “Proposition 24’s proponent and sole funder is an extremely rich landlord. While drafting the initiative, he rejected 38 suggestions that eleven privacy advocacy groups proposed to correct the measure’s many reductions to privacy protections.”

Supporters and MacTaggart say a political calculus is at play. 

“Having had 20 years of experience on these things . . . it’s safe to say that privacy advocates won’t get a better deal than the CPRA in Sacto,” Tweeted author, privacy scholar and University of California law-school professor Chris Hoofnagle.

Robin Swanson, a CPRA backer based in Southern California, She tweeted actively this week, asserting Prop 24 opponents were failing to disclose their paid opposition to CCPA.   “Lots of misinformation coming from individuals who took $ from Facebook & Google to opposed the first law (CCPA) and now trying to undermine this one,” Swanson Tweeted.  Facebook has warned investors about the impact of Prop 24 if adopted. 

By the way, the drawing above (used with permission) is privacy guru Daniel J. Solove’s latest, which the George Washington University Law School professor Tweeted this week to alert people to his reporting, webinars and list of California Consumer Privacy Act resources.

Draft Prop 24 voter guide documents:



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House platform antitrust hearing draws “urgent” EPIC call for federal privacy agency; Vestager cites dual role problem; does FB use “cookies” to collect ‘private info’? 

There’s abundant comment and analysis available from Wednesday’s virtual testimony by Apple, Amazon, Facebook and Google execs to a House antitrust subcommittee.  The panel’s website links to PDFs of their testimony, as well as advocacy statements from several organizations and individuals, including eight pages from European Commission EVP and privacy “czar”  Margrethe Vestager and the nonprofit Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC). 

Significantly, EPIC’s letter to the subcommittee’s chairman and ranking GOP member calls “urgently” for creation of a U.S. Data Protection Agency. “Virtually every other democratic government has recognized the need for an independent agency to address the challenges of the digital age,” writes EPIC’s Caitriona Fitzgerald, favoring H.R. 4978 introduced by Reps. Eshoo and Lofgren.

In her testimony, Vestager argues that companies that operate platforms but also compete with others who use their platforms makes them a “player on the downstream market against rivals, and at the same times is the referee which determines the conditions of that competition on the upstream platform and can therefore influence the result in its own favour.”

One kerfuffle underway involves an answer that Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg gave when asked if his company uses “cookies” to “collect private information” on users. He said no.  But some observers say that answer, while perhaps legalistically correct, was not accurate.  “Facebook uses cookies to collect private information from its users,” Tweeted Ashkan Soltani, one of the authors of the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA), adding: “This is one of the ways ‘off-Facebook activity’ is collected.”  

Here was Zuckerberg’s entire response: “Congresswoman, my understanding to that is no, we’re not using cookies [word emphasized by Zuckerberg]  to collect private information about people who use our services and I believe we have upheld that commitment.” 




New research papers to explore how regulated interoperability might increase platform competition

A Brazilian law-school professor, reporting on a series of interviews and research, has released the first of three papers which explores technological interoperability a pro-competition policy tool.  Dr. Ian Brown, who is also a former Oxford University privacy and Internet governance scholar, says large online platforms should be interoperable.

“The policy goal is to increase choice and quality for users, and the ability of competitors to succeed with better services,” Brown writes in a preprint of the first of the papers, posted this week.  The paper defines terms such as gatekeeper, conglomerate and ecosystem, and declares that it is an important “social good” for communities to be able to interconnect across platforms. It reviews existing and planned European Union interoperability policies.

Brown writes that effective interoperability requirements are implemented in the terms of service that largely govern individuals’ interactions with platforms, in intellectual property rights; and in cybersecurity laws. For example, he suggests, a user of WhatsApp (owned by Facebook) should be able to send a messages to competing services like Signal,  Telegram, Twitter or LinkedIn. 

Brown says the International Standards Organisation (ISO), in its standard on cloud interoperability, defines the term as “the ability of two or more systems or applications to exchange information and to mutually use the information that has been exchanged.” The paper includes a grid of interoperability forms, their user benefit, and the required regulatory mechanism to implement.

Dr. Brown is visiting CyberBRICS professor at Fundacao Getulio Vargas (FGV) Law School in Rio de Janeiro.



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As Apple readies privacy-enhancing iOS14 that makes tracking “opt-in” only; those who make money on programmatic data sharing are worried

As Apple readies privacy-enhancing iOS14 that makes tracking “opt-in” only; those who make money on programmatic data sharing are worried

Advertisers, publishers and ad-tech companies are studying Apple’s documentation and plans for the fall release of an operating-system update, iOS14, which is going to gradually make Apple ecosystem more privacy-centric by making user tracking “opt-in.”  The fear among those who make money from user tracking is that it will cost them money.   Trade publishers and bloggers are abuzz about the change. A sampling of lings follows: 






Law firm’s summary of pros and cons of Proposition 24 (CPRA) cites “flaws” or “strengthened protections”   

““In their rebuttals and arguments against the law, the opposition points to reductions in California worker’s rights, as well as what they call “flaws” hidden in the ballot measure’s fine print. Such flaws, they argue, provide superior internet services for those who pay, limit job applicants’ and workers’ rights to know what personal information employers maintain about them, and whittle away protections under the CCPA that were intended to limit technology companies ability to collect and use personal information . . . Proponents to the law. Proponents, on the other hand, argue that the CPRA actually strengthens protections that were otherwise being weakened by amendments to the CCPA. The major focus of their arguments is related to security and accountability, new limits placed on companies’ collection and use of personal information, establishing an enforcement arm through the CPPA, and preventing special interest groups and politicians from undermining the law.”


Privacy Beat is a weekly email update from the Information Trust Exchange Governing Association in service to its mission. Links and brief reports are compiled, summarized or analyzed by Bill Densmore and Eva Tucker.  Submit links and ideas for coverage to

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