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California Goes After Social Network Privacy Policies
IconCalifornia State bill SB 242  was recently introduced (and amended last week) which would make social networking sites, like Facebook, take down personal information and photos for account users under age 18 and require more privacy settings (I think this should be a national law).

SB-242, introduced by California State Senator Ellen Corbett (D-San Leandro) would require all security setting to default to "private" and charge up to $10,000 per violation, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.

I have to applaud Sen. Corbett - up one side and down the other.

These sites are not set up for privacy, and they're complicated to negotiate. People who use Facebook and sites like it to engage in social/political activities are not necessarily posting information they want to share with the whole world. Even if information is private to other users, it's not private to Facebook, and can still be used for marketing and advertising purposes.

As I see it, the main problem is you give all your private information before you then determine the level of privacy. It's not well structured. And yes, parents also ought to have the power to remove information or photos from their children's pages or accounts (one of the provisions of the bill). The bill would require "removal of that information regarding a user under 18 years of age upon request by the user's parent, within 48 hours of his or her request."

Facebook is not happy about this bill. I guess it's a little more work for them, but it's good PR for them to say they'll put in the work to protect kids. When you're not an adult, you lack the foresight to see a picture of yourself drinking beer, along with the message that "I'm so wasted," could be problematic when interviewing for a job. It's true 30-year-olds can also post the same nonsense, so everything can't be blamed on youth.

The 48-hour deadline might be tight, but I don't care - they'll just have to figure out a way to set up programs to make that work. If a parent is calling up every day, however, then the site probably should just terminate that account, because that means the parents aren't really "parenting."

In fact, a lot of parents are ignorant, unresponsive, uninvolved, unaware, and "unsupervisory" when it comes to their children:

  • 81% of parents with children who go online say kids aren't careful enough when giving out information (which is why I don't think kids should be online at all without parental supervision)

  • 44% of teens online with social networking profiles say they have been contacted by a stranger, compared with 16% of those without social networking profiles.

  • 14% of kids have actually met face-to-face with a person they first met on the Internet.

  • When asked how they responded when contacted online by a stranger, only THREE percent of online kids said they told an adult or authority figure. Most kids said they didn't report the contact because they were afraid of losing Internet privileges.

  • Between 2007 and 2009, MySpace deleted 90,000 accounts because they were created by registered sex offenders.

Parents are always the first line of defense. Check up on everything. Never, never worry about losing your kid's trust. They don't trust you anyway.

Think about it. Most of the time they don't want to tell you the truth, because they'll get punished or they'll lose some privilege. They're not going to tell you something bad happened on the Internet. They're afraid you won't let them use the Internet if they mention it. And kids will lie to do what they want to do or do what their friends are doing or what they think they should be allowed to do.

So don't be naïve. Don't think "My kids wouldn't do that. My kids are wonderful." They're kids! I'm not saying they're criminals, but I am saying they're kids, and kids can make very unwise choices.

UPDATE on bill SB242: Unfortunately, it has stalled in the Calfornia legislature after aggressive lobbying by Facebook, Google, Twitter and other firms. The bill failed to pass in the California State Senate just this past Friday, May 27. The measure was deadlocked with a 16-16 vote. State Sen. Ellen Corbett (D-San Leandro) said the bill had been "fiercely" lobbied against by opponents, but she plans to bring the bill back for another vote later this week.
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