Corbett: Facebook changes good, but not enough

An East Bay lawmaker whose online privacy bill was narrowly defeated this summer says Facebook’s new privacy settings are better, but not good enough.

The social media giant rolled out some new protections on photo tagging and streamlined privacy controls yesterday. State Senate Majority Leader Ellen Corbett, D-San Leandro, said that’s good.

“I applaud Facebook for moving to give users clearer explanations and greater control over their privacy settings. It’s crucial that users of social networking sites understand who can access the information they provide to sites and how they can control the privacy of that information,” Corbett said in a news release today.

But while this is a good step, “much more still must be done to protect children and educate adults and children about the dangers of disclosing information on the Internet,” she added. “We know if people are not careful, they can become victims of stalkers, predators, scam artists or identity thieves.

“The pervasiveness of new social media has raised fundamental questions about public safety and privacy that we need to vigilantly explore. As a parent and a legislator, I have serious concerns about protecting children and will continue to work on this issue.”

Corbett had authored SB 242, which 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.

SB 242 fell two votes shy of passing the state Senate in early June, after staunch opposition and some hard lobbying by Facebook. Company spokesman Andrew Noyes in late May had said Corbett was 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.”

But Corbett notes that although federal law prohibits children under the age of 13 from using social networking sites, more than 7.5 million children under the age of 13 have Facebook accounts, according to Consumer Reports magazine – a particularly vulnerable population, often unaware that sharing personal information over the Internet can make them targets for identity theft, financial scams or molestation.

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.

  • RR, Senile Columnist

    Let’s de-friend Senator Corbett!

  • Elwood

    Aren’t you glad we have a full time legislature so they can take up things like this, shark fin soup, feng shui and the list goes on and on ad nauseum ad absurdum.

    It’s not as if the state was broke, millions are unemployed and our schools are getting hammered or anything like that.