Facebook may be a major player in the social networking boom that is helping to drive California’s economy, but the State Legislature is becoming wary of how the website operates with respect to minors. A new bill in the California Senate, SB242, would require Facebook and websites like it to enable users to establish privacy settings before they post any data online. It would also allow parents of children under the age of eighteen to demand that the site remove personally identifying information about their children, and force the site to comply within 48 hours.
Facebook is opposed to the bill, and according to the bill’s author, Senator Ellen Corbett (D-San Leandro), the company is operating in “stealth mode” to defeat it on the Senate floor. She says that lobbyists have warned legislators that the new law would pose a “serious threat” to Facebook’s ability to continue to do business in California.
More vocal opposition is coming from the Internet Alliance trade association, which represents many other companies, including Google and various dating sites. Executive Director Tammy Cotta warns that the new legislation “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.”
Some legislators are on board with the legislation in principal, but are critical of specific provisions. For example, they question whether 48 hours is enough time for the company to remove any information that overly vigilant parents request.
Sam Blakeslee (R-San Luis Obispo) is also concerned that such legislation should be passed nationally, rather than being limited to California. He questions whether legislation passed in California would impact users in other states. He says the current situation is “certainly something that should be addressed at the national level.”