California Butts Head with Facebook Over Privacy Debate

Paul Lilly

California is trying to push through legislation that would require social networks to make changes to their privacy policies, and Facebook wants nothing to do with it. Called the Social Networking Privacy Act (SB 242), this new bill would require Facebook and other social networking sites mae users set up their privacy settings as part of the registration process rather than after they become members. So what has Facebook all in a tizzy?

The bill would also require social networking sites to set users' default settings to private, as well as give parents of children under the age of 18 the ability to remove their child's personally identifiable information. None of this sounds too bad, but Facebook's concern is that this would open the door to government control and even more privacy rules, ComputerWorld reports .

Facebook has had several meetings with California Senate Majority Leader Ellen Corbett, who introduced the bill.

"In each of these interactions, we have raised serious concerns about SB 242 directly to Sen. Corbett," said Andrew Noyes, a spokesman for Facebook. "We've also met face-to-face with the bill's author and every other member of the Senate Judiciary Committee to express our concerns. We will continue to make the case on our own and with other groups... because we and many other online safety experts and industry groups believe SB 242 in its current form is a serious threat both to Facebook's business in California and to meaningful California consumers' choices about use of personal data."

Some analysts disagree with Facebook's claims that such a bill would harm Facebook's business. Dan Olds, an analysts with The Gabriel Consulting Group, believes Facebook is more concerned with the precedent SB 242 would set, saying "In Facebook's view, it's the first slip down a slippery slope." But as far as dollars and cents are concerned, he says "it's not going to cost them or their users much money."

What's your take on such a bill? Should states be able to mandate how social networking sites handle privacy?

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