California Politicians Want To Force All Social Networks To Be Private By Default

from the and-to-delete-content dept

We keep seeing “privacy” laws being proposed by politicians who don’t seem to recognize the unintended consequences of what they’re proposing. The latest comes from my home state of California, where a bill is making its way through the legislature that would require the default settings on social networks be to keep everything private. On top of that, it would require that sites remove any personally identifying information — including photos — within 48 hours of a user’s request.

You can recognize why a politician (or even individuals) might like the sound of this without thinking through what it might actually mean. In the bill itself social networking websites are defined as:

an Internet Web-based service that allows an individual to construct a public or partly public profile within a bounded system, articulate a list of other users with whom the individual shares a connection, and view and traverse his or her list of connections and those made by others in the system.

This is trimmed down from a longer, more vague, description, but it’s still troublesome. For example, Techdirt allows people to create public profiles. While we don’t have a system to let people share connections, we’ve certainly had people ask about it, and I know other blog sites have enabled similar capabilities. But, at the same time, our long-standing policy is that we don’t remove comments from people. Yet, if this law passes, we’d run the risk of $10,000 for potential violations.

The thing is, while there may be serious privacy risks on certain websites, this bill doesn’t really address any of them. Instead, it seems to pick a random, non-existent problem, and try to solve it. Take, for example, Twitter. It would clearly fall under this law, but the whole point of Twitter (for the most part) is to be able to communicate publicly. Why force all new users to default to a “private setting”?

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Comments on “California Politicians Want To Force All Social Networks To Be Private By Default”

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Berenerd (profile) says:


“The thing is, while there may be serious privacy risks on certain websites, this bill doesn’t really address any of them. Instead, it seems to pick a random, non-existent problem, and try to solve it. “

Its easier to fix non-existent issues than real ones.

Look! I just made it so people who can’t read don’t need to read my posts by not requiring them to read what I have written! I am so great, I should run for public office!

Chris ODonnell (profile) says:

This will be fun to enforce, given that there is no way for Facebook or any other social network to really know where you live, and thus no way to know which accounts to enforce the rule on. If I live in TX but claim I live in CA when I open a Facebook account, which states laws apply, and is FB liable for not knowing I was lying if I live in CA but list WA aas my residence when I open the account?

chuck says:

Well for me (and only speaking for me) I close down both FaceBook and Twitter and see (or allow to see) only my “friends” and family.
It’s what I use those networks for, to have an easy way to communicate with those specific people.
I don’t want to see the spam from whoever burying a post from say, my brother or a friend, where I have to then search through all the clutter and possibly miss something.

I understand I won’t be overthrowing a countries government this way, but those were not my intentions when I signed up.

Chuck Norris' Enemy (deceased) (profile) says:

CA Legislator

You dumb-asses don’t know how to protect yourselves. So we will make rules so social media sites can’t be social by default and prevent you idiots from letting the other idiots see your private information. But there is no problem with the site storing your information and selling it to third party corporations because they actually secure private data. Vote for me next year!

details, details says:

Re: Anonymotity

Which pictures? The ones on my account, that I can already remove? The ones on my friends account, in which I’m one of twenty people at a party? The one on the Los Angeles Times blog, taken at a public political rally? All photos anywhere on the site whether tagged or not?

Capitalist Lion Tamer (profile) says:

I think they're fighting themselves here.

Law enforcement seems to like social networks for the amount of information that can quickly be harvested, with or without a warrant.

If they start removing personal information or locking it down tighter, that just means that the number of doors kicked down with no-knock warrants (and more frequently, no-knock, no-warrants) is going to increase. At least with the information freely available, they’ve got a better chance of storming the right house occasionally.

David Good (profile) says:

Perhaps if it was optional?

Maybe instead of requiring this, if there was some sort of privacy certification from a private organization or the state, like “Certified to be Privacy Safe”. Then in order to receive the certification, said site would have to meet whatever the default criteria was – like having privacy on by default.

But I think requiring social media to be private by default would be onerous and unenforceable.

DCX2 says:

Re: Perhaps if it was optional?

I agree with this idea of a “Privacy Certification”.

I mean, the idea behind this law isn’t so bad, despite its implementation. I’m sure most people here agree that wireless routers should have encryption on by default, right? I like the idea of privacy being opt-out for a change.

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