A new documentary-drama has just been released on Netflix called “The Social Dilemma” and it is gathering a lot of buzz. Per Netflix, “this documentary-drama hybrid explores the dangerous human impact of social networking, with tech experts sounding the alarm on their own creations.” In this blog we are going to discuss how Prop 24 would address many of the issues that the “The Social Dilemma” brings vividly to our attention.  

For a preview of what the Social Dilemma is about, you can read this article “What Is the Social Dilemma: 6 Things To Know About The Netflix Documentary Before You Watch.”  Or, better yet, you can join us in a Virtual Screening of it on Friday, October 2nd!  Click here or on the image below to register:

We should also note that the Yes on Prop 24 Campaign is proud to have as supporters two of the privacy and technology experts — Roger McNamee and Shoshana Zuboff — who were interviewed in this documentary.   

The Problems at the Core of the “The Social Dilemma”

Currently, Google, Facebook (Instagram), Twitter, and many other businesses track every single thing you do online, whether or not you are on their properties, whether or not you are a member, and whether or not you are logged in.

This is a unique and new development in human history:  never before have we voluntarily disclosed virtually every important aspect of our private lives, to entities capable of storing and using all that information. 

The combination of improved algorithms, exponentially increasing computing power, and exponentially increasing data generation, has resulted in a new thing under the sun: the rise of incalculably wealthy and powerful corporations that know us better than we know ourselves, and use the resulting knowledge to control us.  We may think it is just in small ways, such as seeing a certain ad, but as the film makes clear, the trajectory we are on does not end well, if we do not regain control.

How Prop 24 Address the Issues Raised in “The Social Dilemma”

Prop 24 would address the issues raised in “The Social Dilemma” as follows:

#1) Prop 24 creates a new privacy right to stop Google, Facebook and any other business from being able to mine and collect all your online experiences.  Currently, their immense power comes from the extraordinary amount of data they assemble on each consumer.  At a stroke, this data set would be reduced to only that information generated by the user’s interaction with the platform itself.

The California Consumer Privacy Act (aka CCPA, which is California’s existing privacy law) was supposed to address this, and did not. Prop 24 rectifies this CCPA loophole.  Granted, the platforms will still learn a lot about a user from his/her interactions with the platform itself; but this law would spell the end of their omniscience across platforms, across devices, and across businesses.  If the platforms only know what we do on their sites, it will be an immense step forward in limiting their knowledge about us.

#2) Prop 24 also creates a new privacy to stop the use of Sensitive Personal Information (“SPI”).  SPI includes such categories as precise geolocation; racial or ethnic origin, religious or philosophical beliefs; union membership; the contents of a consumer’s mail, email and text messages; genetic data; biometric information; health information; and information concerning a consumer’s sex life or sexual orientation.

Current law (CCPA) has no rights to stop businesses using a consumer’s data.  By allowing consumers to stop businesses using their SPI, Prop 24 will allow consumers to stop businesses micro-targeting them based on these categories.  Facebook doesn’t need to know a consumer’s sexual orientation; Uber doesn’t need to know a consumer’s race; Google doesn’t need to know a consumer’s political party.  [Note that Micro-targeting is the source of much of the division described in the film, i.e. where the platform’s growth depends on finding the often-extreme “rabbit hole” that a consumer is willing to disappear into, with the resulting disconnection from his or her fellow citizens.]

#3) Prop 24 also creates another new privacy right to stop the use of “…automated decision‐making technology, including profiling and requiring businesses’ response to access requests to include meaningful information about the logic involved in such decision-making processes, as well as a description of the likely outcome of the process with respect to the consumer.” 

Profiling is defined as “any form of automated processing of personal information…to evaluate certain personal aspects relating to a natural person, and in particular to analyze or predict aspects concerning that natural person’s performance at work, economic situation, health, personal preferences, interests, reliability, behavior, location or movements.”

This new right will allow consumers to begin to redress the ‘bespoke internet’ experience that is so harmful—if each of us sees a different version of reality, then reality is what the platforms tell us it is.

i.e. Are we seeing certain sites or jobs or content because of the color of our skin, because of the people we are friends with, because of where our phones have been in the last few weeks?  How would we ever know?  How do we object to this, and how do we stop it?

In many respects, this right might end up being the most important right in the entire law—as the power of the algorithm grows, as its machine learning outstrips even its creators’ understanding of how it is selecting content to drive behavior, these few short paragraphs could allow consumers to level a playing field that is almost vertical today–though it presents itself, convincingly, as flat.

#4) In addition, there are myriad other benefits to Prop 24, each of which would help ensure that if it passes, Prop 24 would be among the best consumer privacy laws in the world.  See the following blog post on “How Prop 24 Adds Even More Privacy Rights Compared to the CCPA.”

Learn More on The Social Dilemma and Prop 24

Want to learn more? Please join us for a virtual viewing of “The Social Dilemma” (register here or by click on the image above) on Friday October 2nd, and then join us for a panel discussion on “Who Controls Your Data” on October 4th.  Click on the image below to register:

And remember to Vote Yes on Privacy and Vote Yes on Prop 24 to address the impact of “The Social Dilemma” !!!