back to article Big Tech turns saboteur to cripple new California privacy law in private

Technology companies are fighting a behind-the-scenes battle in California to undermine new privacy legislation before it comes into effect. The California Consumer Privacy Act was approved back in June following an extraordinary game of chicken between grassroots campaigners and lawmakers. It will give new rights to the state …

  1. Jay Lenovo Silver badge
    Stop

    Private Piracy, Arrr

    "Big California Tech", saving the world from unprofitable data emissions.

    1. Khaptain Silver badge

      Re: Private Piracy, Arrr

      Ironic that Silicon Valley is in California. I wonder if that means that several companies would reimplant to other states where they are slightly less eco-friendly and far more open to large backhanders.

      Aren't there any companies in Silicon Valley capable of producing a non-advertising based search engine. Something that doesn't use Google as the back end?

      1. Mark 85 Silver badge

        Re: Private Piracy, Arrr

        Aren't there any companies in Silicon Valley capable of producing a non-advertising based search engine.

        We used to have those, but in today's world, how would they pay the developers and then the ISP bill? There's no incentive to do things for "free" anymore.

        1. 404 Silver badge

          Re: Private Piracy, Arrr

          'There's no incentive to do things for "free" anymore'

          Spite and anger work well - the rest is details.

          1. Spanners Silver badge
            Pirate

            Re: Private Piracy, Arrr

            There's no incentive to do things for "free" anymore

            That is a very important thought behind Open Source. A lot of people got together to make everything from operating systems (linux and others) to software that can be used in offices (Open Office).

            Some people manage to make profits from Open Source but you can still get it free despite a lot of work by Fat Cats and their friends.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: Private Piracy, Arrr

              Some people manage to make profits from Open Source but you can still get it free despite a lot of work by Fat Cats and their friends.

              If not, it may fork. I'm looking at SugerCRM vs SuiteCRM in the context, if it wasn't for every version update screwing over the theme setting (at least in my tests, but IU'm just experimenting).

              That said, I am quite happy to pay for the project or where someone adds value. LibreOffice is a prime example in this, for some as yet unidentified reason they flat out refuse to use the mechanism in MacOS that makes it very easy to enter accented characters that are not on the keyboard (you hold down the key, and a little menu pops up where you can select the required accent - in LibreOffice you just get auto-repeat which is counter-intuitive for the platform and, frankly, f*cking useless). Enter NeoOffice which costs a tiny bit of money but does do it right (alongside some other MacOS specific tweaks), so the sheer saving in productivity from AND avoiding Microsoft's accursed ribbon AND avoiding the not-invented-here LibreOffice non-acceptance of a labour saving character entry method is well worth the peanuts that the NeoOffice guy charges. IMHO he could charge twice as much and I'd still pay it.

              That's why Open Source has enterprise value. You can take balance budget versus convenience and risk, and as long as you also contribute to the eco system (allowing devs to work on FOSS projects, or helping the projects you use along with financial contributions) you are basically helping yourself by helping others.

              1. fajensen Silver badge
                Coat

                Re: Private Piracy, Arrr

                AND avoiding Microsoft's accursed ribbon

                MS-Office on MacOS is not exactly stable, in my experience. I actually like the "dumb" tools that came with the MacOS (KeyNote, Pages, Numbers) because they are simple and not cluttered. Everyone and dog, though, uses MS-Word.

                That's why Open Source has enterprise value.

                In my experience, the lack of licensing and license management is what really crate enterprise value for FOSS. With FOSS people can build systems and even sell them without managing 30+ different licenses and run about 5+ generally retarded licence managers that must be massaged alle the time to be able to run whatever they manage the license for. Goons from FAST won't kick down the doors to the shop either.

                OTOH - Vastly expensive, proprietary, infrastructure software (Oi VmWare, Oracle) has "Getting the BOFH installed on the board"-value. What they don't teach in Management School: To be part of the solution, one first has to become a key part of the problem!

                Anyway - Sometimes only "proprietary" will really do the job, I would personally be really stressed designing things for manufacturing in some volume using KiCAD and Spice rather than using Altium Designer and ComSol.

  2. Version 1.0 Silver badge

    We need to strike back

    How about a browser extension that "visits" random websites in the background? If enough people ran it then Big Tech would have so much bogus data that they would have no idea what anyone was doing and the value of the real data would be very much diminished.

    1. Chris G Silver badge

      Re: We need to strike back

      In addition it should click on every ad hundreds of times, it would make the data meaningless and cost the advertisers a fortune. Maybe they would give up and go away.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: We need to strike back

        In addition it should click on every ad hundreds of times, it would make the data meaningless and cost the advertisers a fortune. Maybe they would give up and go away.

        Hmm. As long as you can make exceptions. Sites like El Reg and others use advertising as the revenue source to pay people to generate the content you love and have no other way to get revenue. The Washington Post now offers two subscriptions: the premier one comes without ads, so there you can make a choice.

        Personally, I think that's probably the model for the future: either you pay with your privacy, or you pay money. The myth of Internet services being free deserves to be put to bed, the sooner the better. If it's "free", it simply means you're paying in another way - your choice if you're happy with that.

        1. big_D Silver badge

          Re: We need to strike back

          I pay for Thurrott.com, I'd happily pay a couple of Euros a month for El Reg as well if it meant a clean experience.

        2. Nunyabiznes

          Re: We need to strike back

          Thumbs up.

          I've been saying this for years. Either you barter your privacy for content or you pay money.

          If more sites offered a choice I would be spending a lot of money on subscriptions. Unfortunately most sites that do offer subscriptions still serve up ads and sell metrics.

    2. This post has been deleted by its author

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      'browser extension that "visits" random websites'

      Dig deeper... Those kinds of plugins have existed for years, but with only marginal success. Privacy problems are so much bigger than that. There are so many firms involved in a chain, all betraying your trust... Aiding Big Tech and their vast spiderwebs...

      Lookalike groups and custom audiences means Google / Facebook only need one low hanging fruit user in any circle to betray everyone and squeal up valuable personal info on a large swath of any circle of friends / family / colleagues etc.

      So misinformation, won't cut it anymore. Most people I know never used real-names on Facebook / Gmail. Never used real address or phone number either. Yet we were all tagged together in friends lists & photos anyway. That's a warning sign.

      How did this happen? Facebook / Google convinced corps to upload their CRM databases as part of the advertising process. ISP-Telcos / Banks did this routinely. Data brokers bought up peeps supermarket loyalty card shopping habits, along with address and phone number info. Experian slurped data from parenting websites... That's what we're up against here. So we all need to Box cleverer. As bad assumptions won't protect us!

      1. big_D Silver badge

        Re: 'browser extension that "visits" random websites'

        I set things like google-analytics, doubleclick.net, Facebook domains (around 1,500 at last count) to 0.0.0.0 in my hosts file (unroutable).

        My hosts file is currently 12,492 lines long, with blocked tracking and spam sites.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          'My hosts file is currently 12,492 lines long'

          Mine's 58k rows in excel and you know what, its mostly meaningless. Why? None of it measures and stops Server-side analytics. Book a flight or hotel room or buy anything online and dozens of slurpers are being fed, with nothing you or I can do about it sadly...

          1. big_D Silver badge

            Re: 'My hosts file is currently 12,492 lines long'

            But at least you are reducing it to only providing information to those with a legitimate interest - and under GDRP, they can't pass on my information to a third party without my explicit, written permission.

            All those 3rd party sites don't get the information.

            In theory at least.

          2. Alan Mackenzie

            Re: 'My hosts file is currently 12,492 lines long'

            AC. there's a lot you can do about the slurpers of your online purchases: stop buying online! Go down to your local shop, like you've always done, up until recently, and buy things in cash. It's not difficult.

            1. onefang Silver badge

              Re: 'My hosts file is currently 12,492 lines long'

              "Go down to your local shop, like you've always done, up until recently, and buy things in cash. It's not difficult."

              It is if none of the local shops sell what you want to buy.

          3. fajensen Silver badge
            Black Helicopters

            Re: 'My hosts file is currently 12,492 lines long'

            Book a flight or hotel room or buy anything online and dozens of slurpers are being fed, with nothing you or I can do about it sadly...

            I think in Qubes-OS one can create a "use-once/ephemeral" domain for that kind of thing. You are tracked while browsing, but every time you shut down your browser within the "internet shopping domain" everything is reset and on the next shopping mission, your browser looks totally new.

            "They" always get your IP address and "User Agent String"; no cookies, pixels, cached data and whatnot that the marketing scum relies on will be preserved. Which is Something.

        2. A.P. Veening

          Re: hosts file

          Set it to 127.0.0.1, reroutes to the computer it is running on, works a bit faster for the same results.

  3. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

    The obvious strike back here is for a new ballot with the original measures to be put forward - and for it to be made clear to the corporations that it will not be withdrawn this time under any circumstances and that if they don't like it they have only themselves to blame.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      WTF?

      Ya'd think that Google might, just might, have a clue about triggering an activist response given their recent experience with their own employees, wouldn't you? And if there was ever a state that has a nasty habit of activism, this would be at the very least near the top. But, no. Furthermore, things that get done via ballot measures in California have a contagion attached to them where other states tend to follow.

      What I said to myself, right after the last hour heroic performance by our legislators to preempt the ballot measure, was that I'd wait and watch to see what comes from the tech sector Mega-Corps. Just long enough a wait that the populace may have, likely have, forgotten about all this. It's been awhile since I was last an activist. For a while I was, then I got apathetic (really burnt out). No longer. Gathering signatures, rather than having to pay people to do so, is a start. I could even see lending hardware and "professional services" gratis. And that's just me being me. These are my responses. I'm not totally rabid, can't speak to anyone else.

      I also expect my email box runneth over shortly. While I haven't done anything in a while, I do get all the activist email even if I just whack it after a quick read. Now, does this really, really seem like a good idea dearest Silicon Valley?

    2. A.P. Veening

      Strike back

      They just might copy the European GDPR in its entirety, especially the fines (a wee bit higher than in the current Californian law).

      1. Charles 9 Silver badge

        Re: Strike back

        And what if the companies (and their associated jobs and tax revenues) threaten to move away? Could affect budget discussions in Sacramento...

  4. JohnFen Silver badge

    Of course they do

    "Tech companies claim that because they don't provide identifiable information to advertisers [...] that there are no privacy issues."

    Of course they do, because they're rabid liars.

    Here's a note to these horrible companies: the reason that this claim is complete bullshit is because it assumes that nobody has the right to protect their data from these companies too.

  5. Paul 87

    Maybe they should put less effort into fighting this and more effort into giving their platform sufficient value that we'd actually hand over money for their product?

    Also, much like GDPR achieved very little other than some even more intrusive pop ups and slower site loading times, the net effect of this bill will be negligable. Very few people care about their privacy

    1. JohnFen Silver badge

      "much like GDPR achieved very little"

      Considering how brief a time that its been in effect, I can only assume that you're a time traveler from the future. Otherwise, how could you know how little or much effect the GDPR has?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        'how could you know how little or much effect the GDPR has'

        The OP has a point... So like marriage and your favorite sports team etc, low-expectations are best here. For example, take this blunt cautionary note from Max Schrems of NOYB fame:

        ~~~

        "Tech companies will likely do the maths on GDPR sanctions to see which problematic features are so profitable that they can afford to keep them running - or at least eat a one-time fine as an experiment in testing the EU"

        ~~~

        https://www.rte.ie/news/business/technology/2018/0816/985601-google-location-gdpr/

    2. big_D Silver badge

      A lot of companies are already reacting. For example many companies have banned WhatsApp on company devices, because of the way it handles contacts. if the phone user has the corporate contacts and WhatsApp on the phone, the employer is, allegedly, in breach of GDPR. Most don't seem to want to find out if they are in breach or not.

      1. Charles 9 Silver badge

        Or we might just see legal chicanery put into effect to reduce a company's fiscal turnover. After all, what's 100% of nothing?

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    ....Tech companies claim that because they don't provide identifiable information to advertisers'

    Facebook just leak it all to Palantir and Pals via API calls. This lets Zuck claim 'horrible firms' broke Facebook T&C with nothing to see here...

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      'Tech companies claim that because they don't provide identifiable information to advertisers'

      Also, by Zuk's own admission, up to 2 billion users had their profiles scraped thanks to Facebook's email / phone lookup... Compliments of Hackers / Bots leveraging rotating IP's etc.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    But... Wot about Apple, the biggest of them all?

    They aren't mentioned in the Article. So?

    - Are they behind this move to water down the law?

    OR

    - Are they on the other side of the Fence to Gooble and Faecebook?

    I think we deserve to know.

    Has El Reg 'reached out' to Apple yet /sic

    1. Stork Bronze badge

      Re: But... Wot about Apple, the biggest of them all?

      Apple sells HW and some services, which you can like or not.

      To my best knowledge, they are not having a business line in selling your data, unlike the other outfits mentioned. IOW, they are not adslingers.

  8. Pascal Monett Silver badge

    Corporate America is bouncing back

    The masters see a threat to their money-making ability and that is unacceptable.

    They will do whatever is necessary, say whatever weasel words are required, and push the law back into its place : to protect them and their livelyhood (ie making money).

    Is it time yet to hold a memorial service for the notion of "the land of the free and the home of the brave" ?

    'Cause those ain't nuthin' but words, now.

  9. fpx
    Boffin

    Long article about this bill in the NYT: https://www.nytimes.com/2018/08/14/magazine/facebook-google-privacy-data.html

  10. Potemkine! Silver badge

    "to be interested in the companies’ services in a privacy protective way"

    I was missing my daily cup of PR BS till I read this article.

  11. GrapeBunch Bronze badge

    Inspired by Mattycakes

    "Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone?"

    Which of you, if your client asks for the data, will give her a Have A Nice Day?

    Every single one of them.

  12. Number6

    Ballots

    There's always next year's ballot if the tech companies manage to water things down. Find out what they dislike most and make sure that's on the public ballot next year.

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