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Home » News

It’s not the medium. It’s what you put out there

Submitted by on Monday, 26 April 2010 One Comment
Note to California State Sen. Ellen Corbett: Social networking sites do not post personal information about minors. The minors themselves do that.

That's why Corbett's bill, which The Sacramento Bee says would ban sites from posting home addresses or phone numbers for people under 18, does absolutely nothing to stop what she sees as a serious social problem.

“Anyone with children, grandchildren or who are just concerned about a minor’s well-being knows that it is all too possible for them to be victimized by information that they unknowingly allow to escape onto the internet,” Corbett said in a news release posted on her Web site.

Note to Corbett: People generally post information online because they want it to be disseminated. And even if that wasn't their intention to begin with, in a day when Facebook changes its privacy settings every third Thursday, you'd be silly to assume that what you thought was confidential stays that way. Hasn't she had that talk with her kid?

New York Sen. Charles Schumer actually has a pretty good solution . He wants social media settings that would let users decide what they want to share, as opposed to having to wade through labyrinthine settings and declick if they don't want something public, only to have to do it all over again next month. He also wants the Federal Trade Commission to take a close look at how Facebook shares data with third parties and across platforms, and he's spot on there as well. Some of the recent changes in that area are downright disturbing.

But back to Corbett, who sites a study by the Polly Klaas Foundation that found that 42 percent of online teens said they have posted information about themselves on the Internet so others can see it and contact them.

Why does networking surprise a politician? I post information about myself on the Internet so people can find me. My high school and college are listed on Facebook, as is my hometown. The result has been a wealth of renewed acquaintances, professional and personal. Why should teens be any different?

As for banning social networks from collecting personal information from minors, who's naive enough to think that will work anyway? Facebook already is restricted to ages 13 and older. Anyone know anyone younger than that who has an account. Yes, that's what I thought.

And here's where Corbett's bill gets really sloppy: The digest claims that it covers commercial Internet sites, but that's not what the text says at all.

" 'Social networking Internet Web site' means any business, organization, or other entity that provides or offers a service through the Internet that permits a registered user to access, meet, congregate, or communicate with other registered users for social networking purposes."

That would appear to cover schools that have set up social networking sites to help students with academics. Granted, Ning networks aren't as attractive as they were a month ago, when they were still free, but they're still a dang inexpensive way to reach today's generation where they live.

Corbett's bill already has passed the Senate, and I wouldn't bet against it in the Assembly. Doing something "for the children" is always more rewarding than dealing with the budget - particularly California's budget at the moment. Besides, rare is the legislator who's going to risk being viewed as defending the pervs, which are the chief group that Corbett et al believe social networking benefits.

Copyright 2010 Debra Legg. All rights reserved.

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One Comment »

  • Mommie Daze said:

    These politicians are ridiculous. Laws won’t stop teens from doing anything. We have laws against them drinking, taking drugs, they still do it. It’s up to usparents to keep our kids safe online. We need to make it our business to know what they’re posting, and who they’re communicating with. My boys aren’t old enough yet, but when they are able to use the internet it will be with strict supervision.