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Proposed Law Could Alter Privacy Policies For Facebook

May 17, 2011

A new law proposed in California would change social networking sites’ privacy policies by instituting new restrictions on what user information is shared, while requiring sites to institute more stringent privacy settings.

Internet companies and trade associations have opposed proposal “SB242″ saying it would have “unintended consequences” and a negative effect on their business.  They said that it would force users to make uninformed decisions about their privacy, making them choose their privacy settings before even using the social networking services.

The bill would prohibit sites from displaying users’ home addresses or telephone numbers without their consent and would mandate services remove any information about a user within 48 hours of the request.

The law would require all users to choose their privacy settings as part of the registration process.  It also said a privacy setting would be mandated to serve as the default on all sites and would prohibit “the display”¦ of any information about a registered users, other than the user’s name and city of residence, without the agreement of the user.”

According to the San Francisco Chronicle, Senator Ellen Corbett, who proposed the law, said “You shouldn’t have to sign in and give up your personal information before you get to the part where you say, ‘Please don’t share my personal information’.”

The Internet Alliance, a trade association that includes Google and Facebook, is among the groups that have expressed concerns and misgivings about the law.

SB242 “would force users to make decisions about privacy and visibility of all information well before they even used the service for the first time, and in such a manner that they are less likely to pay attention and process the information,” Internet Alliance executive director Tammy Cota wrote in a letter to the Senate Judiciary Committee.

“This legislation is a serious threat both to Facebook’s business in California and to meaningful California consumers’ choices about use of personal data,” Facebook spokesman Andrew Noyes said of the proposed law, the San Francisco Chronicle reports.

“Any legislative or regulatory proposal must honor users’ expectations in the contexts in which they use online services and promote the innovation that fuels the growth of the Internet economy.”

Corbett has accused Facebook of operating in “stealth mode” to fight her proposal by offering “talking points” to members of the Senate Judiciary Committee on why the bill should be opposed.

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