I know, I know, Facebook privacy rants are normally the stomping ground of our fearless managing editor Frank Reed, but I just have to bring to your attention that Facebook et al are trying to block a California bill that would make your social networking more private.
Despite the feigned empathy towards those that are worried about the sharing of sensitive personal information, Facebook leads a group–which includes Google, Twitter and Zynga–in opposing proposed legislation in California that would make it mandatory for social networks to shore up their privacy settings.
If it passes, the law would require social networks to make all information private by default, unless the user chooses to go through each setting and remove any privacy. Clearly this is a smart idea for the user, as it would let them decide which sensitive information is shared publicly. You would also think that this would take the heat off of the social networking sites, as they would no longer get complaints that their privacy settings where too, well, non-existent.
But sadly no.
There’s money to be made and it’s not going to happen if you prevent all of your telephone, email, friend, and hobby information sit behind your privacy settings. So, in the interests of
making money improving your social networking experience, these companies are opposing the bill on the grounds that:
- Asking users to make privacy choices at the outset–the group calls this “privacy shrink wrap”–will result in bad and overly broad decisions. The Federal Trade Commission recently said that it’s best practice to ask users to make privacy decisions on an item-by-item basis so they can understand the context.
- Users are already setting their privacy settings themselves, and don’t seem to have had problems with social networks failing to remove content after it’s been requested.
- Many social networking companies are based in California, and implementing these practices would significantly impact their businesses at a time when the state’s economy is in shambles.
- SB 242 is unconstitutional because it interferes with freedom of speech and interstate commerce. Quote: “By hiding from view of all existing usersʼ information until they made a contrary choice, the State of California would be significantly limiting those usersʼ ability to ‘freely speak, write and publish his or her sentiments on all subjects.’”
Do any of the above reasons wash with you? I’m not saying that it’s necessarily a good thing for new accounts to be private by default, but I also don’t like these companies hiding their real motives behind some feigned altruism.