Liz Gannes

Recent Posts by Liz Gannes

Take Your Paws Off Our Privacy Laws! Facebook, Google, Twitter, Zynga Formally Oppose California Social Networking Bill

A coalition of industry associations and Internet companies including Facebook, Google, Twitter, Zynga, Match.com and Skype this afternoon submitted a formal letter of opposition to proposed California legislation that would mandate new privacy policies for social networking sites.

In addition to opposing the sentiment of the legislation, the group charges it is unconstitutional and threatens it could be damaging to the California economy.

The proposed law, as we’ve previously written, would require social networks to be private by default and make California users choose privacy settings before they complete registration. It would also make it easier for parents to remove content from their children’s social network accounts.

Here’s a summary of the group’s criticisms and contentions:

  • Asking users to make privacy choices at the outset–the group calls this “privacy shrink wrap”–will result in bad and overly broad decisions. The Federal Trade Commission recently said that it is best practice to ask users to make privacy decisions on an item-by-item basis so they can understand the context.
  • Users are already setting their privacy settings themselves, and don’t seem to have had problems with social networks failing to remove content after it’s been requested.
  • Many social networking companies are based in California, and implementing these practices would significantly impact their businesses at a time when the state’s economy is in shambles.
  • SB 242 is unconstitutional because it interferes with freedom of speech and interstate commerce. Quote: “By hiding from view all existing users? information until they made a contrary choice, the State of California would be significantly limiting those users? ability to ‘freely speak, write and publish his or her sentiments on all subjects.’”

The full document is embedded below. We’ve also reached out for comment to California State Senate Majority Leader Ellen Corbett, who proposed the bill.

Corbett had previously accused Facebook of “stealth” lobbying against the bill without submitting a formal letter opposing it, though Facebook told us it had discussed the legislation at length with her and other members of the Senate Judiciary Committee. Now it has submitted a formal letter as well.

Update: The KlaasKids Foundation also came out against the bill on Monday, saying that social networks and kids will find new ways to circumvent the law, if it should pass, making children less safe online.

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Please see the disclosure about Facebook in my ethics statement.


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Just as the atom bomb was the weapon that was supposed to render war obsolete, the Internet seems like capitalism’s ultimate feat of self-destructive genius, an economic doomsday device rendering it impossible for anyone to ever make a profit off anything again. It’s especially hopeless for those whose work is easily digitized and accessed free of charge.

— Author Tim Kreider on not getting paid for one’s work