Ellen Corbett’s internet privacy bill fails again

Closer, but still not close enough for state Senate Majority Leader Ellen Corbett, D-San Leandro.

Corbett’s SB 242, would have required that social-networking sites default to hiding information unless users choose to have it shown; that they create a process for new users to set their privacy settings as part of their registration, using plain language; and that they remove personal identifying information in a timely manner upon the user’s request. A violation would have been punishable by a fine of up to $10,000.

Last Thursday, the state Senate’s vote on SB 242 was 16 to 16, five votes short of what it needed to pass. After several days of arm-twisting, Corbett gave it another go today – and fell two votes short. Friday is the last day for Senate-originated bills to pass out of the Senate this session, so this battle is over for now.

But Corbett vowed today to keep working on the issue and organize a summit on internet privacy dangers.

“I feel terrible for children, their parents and the many others who are at risk of being victims of identity theft or other criminal activity because their private information falls into the wrong hands,” she said in a news release. “It is clear to me that everyone, and especially children, who use social networking sites needs their personal information better protected.”

Corbett said that she has received letters and emails of encouragement from across the country, and that polls show a growing number of Americans are worried about the lack of protection of their personal information on the internet. The San Franciso-based national nonprofit Common Sense Media issued a floor alert yesterday telling legislators it supported AB 242 as “an important step forward in ensuring the privacy rights of social network users” with “important implications for kids and their families” who would be empowered “with more information and more control over how their personal information is being used and displayed.”

Facebook staunchly opposed the bill; company spokesman Andrew Noyes last week said Corbett is threatening California’s internet economy by trying to impose “unnecessary regulations that ignore the extraordinary lengths that companies like ours go to in order to protect individuals’ privacy and give them the tools to determine for themselves how much information they wish to share online.”

Noyes emailed reporters yesterday to note the company’s response to a letter he said it received from Corbett in which the Senator purportedly said she had “been unable to engage representatives of [Facebook] in any dialogue.” Facebook’s public policy people met with or talked to Corbett’s office 13 times this year, Noyes wrote, including a February meeting at the company’s Palo Alto headquarters between Corbett and Facebook’s chief operating officer, safety programs manager, chief security officer and vice president of public policy.

Josh Richman

Josh Richman covers state and national politics for the Bay Area News Group. A New York City native, he earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Missouri and reported for the Express-Times of Easton, Pa. for five years before coming to the Oakland Tribune and ANG Newspapers in 1997. He is a frequent guest on KQED Channel 9’s “This Week in Northern California;” a proud father; an Eagle Scout; a somewhat skilled player of low-stakes poker; a rather good cook; a firm believer in the use of semicolons; and an unabashed political junkie who will never, EVER seek elected office.

  • W. Michael Youngblood

    Keep trying, Corbett! The web is a great asset, but, if it were a neighborhood, you’d keep your kids (and your personal information) indoors.

    Where can one find an accounting of the votes by our representatives and donations received from each side?

  • Josh Richman

    Michael, click here for some insight from MAPLight.org on the money behind SB 242.