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The Unlikely Activists Who Took On Silicon Valley—and Won


In the New York Times, investigative reporter Nicholas Confessore tells the story of two California businessmen who turned themselves into activists and initiated a major new internet privacy law in the state. The law—which, among other things, forces companies like Facebook and Google to allow consumers to opt out of having their data sold to third parties—was passed by the California legislature this summer and may become the template for a national privacy law in the US. Here’s an excerpt from the article:

But as Mactaggart saw it, the core of his initiative remained intact — and was in some ways strengthened. Now you could see exactly what information Silicon Valley and the data brokers had collected about you. You could still demand that they stop selling or swapping your data. And if they refused, the California attorney general could investigate and impose fines. Even in this reduced form, Mactaggart and Soltani believed, this would be the most stringent consumer-privacy law in the country — the most significant step in years toward regulating the surveillance capitalists, and a proof of concept for activists and industry alike. If it passed, the tech industry could no longer claim that no one cared about privacy, or that data rules would kill jobs, or were too technically challenging. California’s attorney general could police the entire industry, while other states worked on their own versions of the rules. “Under this law, the attorney general of California will become the chief privacy officer of the United States of America,” Mactaggart argued. Eventually, it might drive the tech industry back to the negotiating table in Washington, in hopes of getting a single national standard.

Image via NY Times.