Ms. Harris danced around sensitive issues. With online privacy, she said, she wanted to strike a balance between what’s good for business and protecting consumers. When asked about antitrust enforcement, she said it was important not to be shortsighted. A state on the verge of bankruptcy, as California was then, “cannot stand in the way of business growth and development,” she said.
That month, David Drummond, then Google’s top lawyer, personally donated $6,500, the maximum allowed at the time, to her campaign. Google kicked in another $6,500. Backed by tech money, Ms. Harris eked out a victory in one of the closest statewide races in California history, setting her career on the trajectory that has catapulted her to being the first Black woman on the presidential ticket of a major political party.
Ms. Harris rarely challenged the major tech companies after she became California’s attorney general.
Jamie Court, president of the California-based Consumer Watchdog, said his group lobbied Ms. Harris in 2011 to support legislation that would force companies to stop monitoring the online activity of users if they clearly stated that they did not want to be tracked. She refused to sponsor the bill or support it, he said.
Two years later, Ms. Harris sponsored — and California enacted — a less stringent law, requiring companies to post in privacy policies whether they abide by do-not-track requests and what personally identifiable information they collect.
“She presided over this era of great consolidation and power in the hands of these tech giants and she didn’t do a thing,” Mr. Court said.
But Ms. Harris’s supporters said that when she did act, her familiarity with the technology industry helped her prod the companies into action. Danielle Keats Citron, a law professor at Boston University, said she saw that firsthand when she worked with Ms. Harris in early 2015 to fight so-called revenge pornography — a term for posting explicit images or videos of a person without that person’s permission.