Social sites ban together to oppose California Social Networking Privacy Act

coalitionProposed legislation in California is seeking to give parents increased access to their children’s social networking accounts while simultaneously requiring sites like Facebook to seriously alter their privacy settings. SB 242, or the Social Networking Privacy Act, spearheaded by Senator Ellen Corbett, would require social sites to fundamentally reformat how they operate and share information. “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,’” Corbett says. In short, your profile and all of its accompanying personal information would be private by default and you would select what would be public, a complete 180 to how most social sites currently operate.

Facebook responded, calling the legislation a “serious threat.” Today, the site has taken action and partnered with industry heavyweights including Google, Twitter, Zynga,, Skype, eHarmoney, and Yahoo to formally oppose the bill. A letter from the coalition addressed SB 242’s various concerns, and here we break down some of the legaliese to decipher what Facebook and its industry cohorts are saying.

“SB 242 would establish a ceiling, undermining meaningful consumer choice while incentivizing this growing industry to expand their operations anywhere but California.”

This is, more or less, a thinly veiled threat to the state. The Bay Area and Silicon Valley are synonymous with social networking sites and are the home of most of the big names in the industry, including Twitter, Facebook, Google, and Yahoo. These companies know how much money and prestige they’ve generated for the state as well as the innovation they’ve spurred and brought there, and they won’t be restricted. Try to hamper their plans and they will relocate somewhere that won’t. The letter also hints this legislation would cause “significant damage to California’s vibrant Internet commerce industry at a time when the state can least afford it.” Translation: Drop it, or else.

“A common just-in-time, contextual privacy notice on a popular social networking site has fewer than forty words, describes exactly the information to be shared and with whom, and is easily understood by a layperson.”

Basically, the coalition is telling backers of SB 242 it knows what it’s doing. The bill requests that such sites more thoroughly explain their privacy policies and do so before a user begins the registration process. “A description of all availability privacy and visibility options to a consumer who has never used the service in question could take thousands of words and up to half an hour to read.” And who’s going to read through all of that? Not very many people. Facebook recently has attempted to take the legal-speak out of its Terms of Service, as it found most people would only glaze these policies and find the jargon too overwhelming and the pages too many. This type of format scares off users, the coalition argues, and should they implement the legislation’s requests users will take less action in their privacy, or forgo these options altogether.

“The major social networking sites already remove personal information when the requestor specifies the information to be removed and the information is not already widely available.”

The header of the section this statement falls under says it all: “SB 242 is unnecessary.” It sounds like the coalition is telling the bill’s proponents they should have checked their facts a little better. Part of the bill states that social networking sites would remove information requested of them within 48 hours of the request being issue, and particularly pertains to parents of minors with accounts that want information about their children removed. According to the letter of opposition, there is currently no issue with this. Such requests are almost being granted, and the penalty the bill would impose for not meeting the exact demands – $10,000 – is wildly outlandish.

Lawmakers have attempted to curb the reach and capabilities of social networking sites, largely unsuccessful. The scope of SB 242 is so wide, it’s likely to find a similar fate.


Social media use increases depression and anxiety, experiment shows

A study has shown for the first time a causal link between social media use and lower rates of well-being. Students who limited their social media usage to 30 minutes a day showed significant decreases in anxiety and fear of missing out.

These 100 best iPhone apps will turn your phone into a jack-of-all-trades

The iPhone is the most popular smartphone in the world, and we want to bring out the best in yours. Behold our comprehensive list of the best iPhone apps, from time-saving productivity tools to fun apps you won’t be able to put down.
Movies & TV

The best shows on Netflix, from 'The Haunting of Hill House’ to ‘The Good Place’

Looking for a new show to binge? Lucky for you, we've curated a list of the best shows on Netflix, whether you're a fan of outlandish anime, dramatic period pieces, or shows that leave you questioning what lies beyond.
Home Theater

The best movies on Netflix in November, from 'The Witch’ to ‘Dracula’

Save yourself from hours wasted scrolling through Netflix's massive library by checking out our picks for the streamer's best movies available right now, whether you're into explosive action, witty humor, or anything else.

WhatsApp finally gives in to the lure of cash-generating ads

WhatsApp's co-founders always said their messaging app would never show ads, but once the pair quit the company, it seemed inevitable that its owner, Facebook, would find a way to incorporate them.

Shazam hooks up with Instagram Stories for another way to share songs

The latest update for Apple-owned Shazam lets iPhone users share music tracks to Instagram Stories in a few quick taps. To enable the feature, just make sure you have the latest version of Shazam loaded on your handset.
Social Media

Dine and dash(board): Make a Yelp reservation from your car’s control panel

Already in the car, but can't decide where to eat? Yelp Reservations can now be added to some dashboard touchscreens. Yelp Reservations searches for restaurants within 25 miles of the vehicle's location.

Hackers sold 120 million private Facebook messages, report says

Up to 120 million private Facebook messages were being sold online by hackers this fall. The breach was first discovered in September and the messages were obtained through unnamed rogue browser extensions. 

Switch up your Reddit routine with these interesting, inspiring, and zany subs

So you've just joined the wonderful world of Reddit and want to explore it. With so many subreddits, however, navigating the "front page of the internet" can be daunting. You're in luck -- we've gathered 23 of the best subreddits to help…
Social Media

Facebook opens pop-up stores at Macy’s, but they’re not selling the Portal

Facebook has opened pop-up stores at multiple Macy's, though they're not selling Facebook's new Portal device. Instead, they're showcasing small businesses and brands that are already popular on Facebook and Instagram.
Social Media

Facebook Messenger will soon let you delete sent messages

A feature coming to Facebook Messenger will let you delete a message for up to 10 minutes after you send it. The company promised the feature months ago and this week said it really is on its way ... "soon."
Social Media

Pinterest brings followed content front and center with full-width Pin format

Want to see Pinterest recommendations, or just Pins from followed users? Now Pinners can choose with a Pinterest Following feed update. The secondary feed eliminates recommendation and is (almost) chronological.
Smart Home

Facebook's Alexa-enabled video-calling devices begin shipping

Facebook's Portal devices are video smart speakers with Alexa voice assistants built in that allow you to make calls. The 15-inch Portal+ model features a pivoting camera that follows you around the room as you speak.
Social Media

Vine fans, your favorite video-looping app is coming back as Byte

Vine fans were left disappointed in 2017 when its owner, Twitter, pulled the plug on the video-looping app. But now one of its co-founders has promised that a new version of the app, called Byte, is coming soon.