ACLU caught sharing sensitive donor information with Facebook, Google

new update to the privacy policy of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) reveals that the so-called defender of free speech is sharing sensitive information about its donors to “service providers” such as Facebook and Google. Former Obama White House senior advisor Ashkan Soltani warned about the change on Twitter, explaining that the ACLU is complicit in selling people private data for “targeted advertising,” which “fl[ies] in the face of the org’s public advocacy and statements.” The ACLU has refused to tell the truth about its shady activities for a while now, worrying that its reputation and image would be shattered over the hypocrisy. Now, however, the ACLU appears to no longer be worried about any potential backlash. Soltani says he was actually retained by the ACLU last summer to perform a privacy audit after concerns were raised internally about the group’s data sharing practices. He only agreed to participate based on promises from the ACLU’s executive director that the findings would be made public. “Unfortunately, after reviewing my findings, the ACLU decided against publishing my report and instead sat on it for (about) 6 months before quietly updating their terms of service and privacy policy without explanation for the context or motivations for doing so,” Soltani revealed. Over the past several years, Soltani added, the ACLU has pumped “nearly half a million dollars” for targeted advertising into the Google abyss. Even more money, he says, was transferred from the ACLU to Facebook. “While I’m bound by nondisclosure agreement to not disclose the information I uncovered or my specific findings, I can say with confidence that the ACLU’s updated privacy statements do not reflect the full picture of their practices,” Soltani further says. “For example, public transparency data from Google shows that @ACLU has paid Google nearly half a million dollars to deliver targeted advertisements since 2018 (when the data first was made public).”

The ACLU just pretends to support free speech and privacy rights – in real life, the ACLU is just another extension of Big Tech

For years, the ACLU has been funneling money to Facebook behind the backs of its donors, presumably all of whom had no idea what the organization was doing. Only in 2021 did the ACLU come clean, and that appears to have only been because of Soltani’s report. He says the ACLU has given Facebook more than $5 million over the years for ad spending. Had the group’s donors known about all this spending, many of them likely would have stopped donating to the ACLU, recognizing it as a corrupt operation pretending to be something it is not. “These relationships fly against the principles and public statements of the ACLU regarding transparency, control, and disclosure before use, even as the organization claims to be a strong advocate for privacy rights at the federal and state level,” Soltani says. In the past, Soltani added in his stream of tweets, the ACLU was investigated for its deceptive privacy policy – even as the ACLU was publicly pretending to oppose the types of privacy breaches that the group itself engages in behind the scenes. “The irony is not lost on me that the ACLU vehemently opposed the CPRA – the toughest state privacy law in the country – when it was proposed,” Soltani explains. “My experience with @ACLU further amplifies the need to have strong legal privacy protections that *apply to nonprofits8 as well as businesses – partially since many of the underlying practices, particularly in the area of fundraising and advocacy, are similar if not worse.”


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