Silicon Valley joined with telcos, cable to defeat California privacy law, says EFF

by Steve Blum • , , ,

An unholy alliance between big tech interests and big telecoms companies succeeded in spiking an Internet privacy bill in Sacramento this year, according to the Electronic Freedom Foundation. In a blog post, the EFF’s Ernesto Falcon says that “Google and Facebook locked arms with AT&T, Verizon, and Comcast to oppose” assembly bill 375…

How do we know? Because we were on the ground in Sacramento in September to witness every last-minute dirty trick to stop A.B. 375 from moving forward. But there is one positive outcome: ISP and Silicon Valley lobbyists have played their hand. When these tactics are deployed at the last minute by an army of lobbyists, false information is extremely hard to counter by citizens and consumer groups who lack special access to legislators. But over time legislators (and their constituents) learn the truth – and we’ll make sure they will remember it when this legislation comes back around in 2018.

Falcon’s post has links to a couple of anonymous “fact sheets” given to lawmakers. One takes on the EFF’s positions directly; the other is a classic piece of scaremongering that would be laughable if legislators didn’t lap it up like a dog going after a dropped ice cream cone. Preventing ISPs from selling your browsing history or medical records is going to lead to terrorist attacks? Come on.

He’s right in thinking that the balance might tip next year. Democratic legislators have to walk a fine line between the national party’s opposition to Trump administration policies, such as rolling back privacy protections, and the telco and cable agenda that’s backed by truckloads of cash contributions. They managed to finesse it this year by sliding AB 375 into the clubbable senate rules committee, where it could die a quiet death out of public view. If public activism increases next year, the ending could be quite different.