I hadn’t heard about the proposed SB 242 bill in California until reading about it on TechCrunch a few moments ago. As I quickly ran through the article, I prepared myself to see a whole lot of angry comments at the end. I wasn’t disappointed… people are angry. However, every single commenter is missing the bigger picture in my mind. How – exactly – is Facebook supposed to determine parental rights should they receive a takedown request?
As it is written, the bill would ensure that:
“A social networking Internet Web site shall remove the personal identifying information of a registered user in a timely manner upon his or her request. In the case of a registered user who identifies himself or herself as being under 18 years of age, the social networking Internet Web site shall also remove the information upon the request of a parent of the registered user.”
I understand where they are trying to go with this, really I do. The HUGE problem I see is that there is absolutely nothing written about ways in which “the social networking site” is supposed to figure out who the parents really are. Without exact guidelines, any person would be able to claim they are someone’s parent and demand that information be removed. Perhaps Johnny has divorced parents and the father isn’t allowed any rights at all. Should that father then be able to request Facebook remove something from the young man’s page? What about a teen who has no “parents,” and instead lives with grandma? Does that mean he can post whatever he likes, without the grandmother being able to do anything about it?
The bills as written begs for trouble. In order to make demands of this nature, there has to be clear-cut guidelines. There is simply far too much grey area here… too much room for abuse. I’ll go so far as to say it: there’s even potential there for stalking and harassment of minors. Katie could have a friend in high school who is out to “get” her for some reason. Said “friend” creates a new Facebook account and pretends to be Katie’s mom… do you see where I’m going? Where is the burden of PROOF? Do we even want to delve into the creepy factor here? I think not. You can figure that out for yourself.
I agree that there needs to be better ways to protect the privacy of teens on social networking sites. I disagree with all of the people screaming that parents need to parent their children better. If a parent cannot understand the complicated and convoluted privacy settings on Facebook, what hope do they have of keeping track of that of their child? Facebook – and sites like it – need to step up to the plate and make things much simpler on everyone involved.