California state senator Ellen Corbett proposed an amended version of the Social Networking Privacy Act (SB 242) on May 10, 2011. SB 242 would require social networking websites to design default privacy settings that prevent any information about a user (other than name and city) from being displayed to the public or other users without affirmative consent from the user. Social networking websites would also be required to: (1) create a process for new users to set their privacy settings before they complete the process of registering for the site; and (2) remove personal information of a user within 48 hours of the user’s request or the request of the user’s parent if the user is under 18. A willful and knowing violation of the mandates would subject a social networking website to a civil penalty of up to $10,000 for each violation.
Presently, social networking sites like Facebook have default settings for new users that share with everyone on the Internet a user’s status update, photos, posts, biographical information, and relationships that are entered into the site. Senator Corbett, in explaining the rationale of SB 242, stated: “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.’ “
Not surprisingly, social networking sites are strongly opposed to SB 242. On May 16, 2011, companies that included Facebook, Google, Twitter, Skype, Match.com, eHarmony, and Yahoo signed an open letter to Senator Corbett voicing their opposition. The letter stated:
“SB 242 would significantly undermine the ability of Californians to make informed and meaningful choices about use of their personal data, and unconstitutionally interfere with the right to free speech enshrined in the California and United States Constitutions, while doing significant damage to California’s vibrant Internet commerce industry at a time when the state can least afford it.”