The efforts of the California legislature to regulate privacy in social media received a setback on June 2, 2011 when the California State Senate for the second time refused passage of a Senate Bill that would require social media networks to adopt default settings restricting the display of their users’ personally identifiable information.
The bill, S.B. 242, known as the “Social Networking Privacy Act,” was introduced by Senator Ellen Corbett earlier this year. The bill required social media networks to adopt default settings prohibiting the display of “personal identifying information”, such as address, telephone number, driver’s license, social security number, credit card numbers, and other information. It also required the networks to advise users of their ability to change the settings for display of personal information in “plain language.” Finally, it required networks to remove personal identifying information “in a timely manner” upon request.
Supporters of the bill argued it was necessary because studies show many social media users are unaware of how much private information they make unavailable on social media sites. Opponents, on the other hand, argued there was an insufficient demonstration of a need for the new law, that it would result in less privacy, and that it unconstitutionally infringed the free speech rights of social media users.
Ultimately, the bill fell two votes short of a majority in the State Senate. Online privacy remains an issue of interest to the state legislature, however, and other bills remain pending.