Marcia Stepanek is a regular contributing writer for Justmeans and co-founder of Contribute Media. She also is Publisher of Cause Global, a group blog about the use of social media in social advocacy and innovation. Previously, she was executive editor and co-founder of CIO Insight Magazine and Web strategies editor at BusinessWeek, as well as the national economics correspondent and special proje...
Activists Launch Petition Drive for Facebook Users' Bill of Rights
Here's what emerged from that gathering -- a Social Network Users Bill of Rights:
We, the users, expect social network sites to provide us the following rights in their Terms of Service, Privacy Policies and implementions of their system:
2. Clarity: Make sure that policies, terms of service, and settings are easy to find and understand
3. Freedom of speech: Do not delete or modify my data without a clear policy and justification
4. Empowerment : Support assistive technologies and universal accessibility
5. Self-protection: Support privacy-enhancing technologies
6. Data minimization: Minimize the information I am required to provide and share with others.
7. Control: Let me control my data, and don't facilitate sharing it unless I agree first.
8. Predictability: Obtain my prior consent before significantly changing who can see my data.
9. Data portability: Make it easy for me to obtain a copy of my data.
10. Protection: Treat my data as securely as your own confidential data unless I choose to share it, and notify me if it is compromised.
11. Right to know: Show me how you are using my data and allow me to see who and what has access to it.
12. Right to self-define: Let me create more than one identity and use pseudonyms. Do not link them without my permission.
13. Right to appeal: Allow me to appeal punitive actions.
14. Right to withdraw: Allow me to delete my account, and remove my data.
So far, the petition has gotten more than 200 signatures, but getting the social network companies to support it may be tougher. Google and Twitter have declined to comment on the document and a Google spokesperson said the company already has its own set of posted privacy standards. Facebook, when asked to comment on the principles by the San Jose Mercury News over the weekend, issued a prepared statement. It said that while Facebook shares the goal of ensuring "a safe and trusted environment" for its users, "we don't agree with all of the proposed elements" of the Bill of Rights, including a request by some that would allow users to use pseudonyms.
Petition organizers are unfazed. "A networking Bill of Rights is a tool that users can use for education and empowerment," said Jack Lerner, director of the USC Intellectual Property and Technology Law Clinic and one of the people in the tech group that drafted the document. "Facebook is the 800-pound gorilla right now but that won't necessarily be the case forever." Jon Pincus, a co-chairman of the conference, added that "Facebook, with its 400 million users, likes to describe itself as equivalent to the third-largest country in the world. But what rights do the citizens of that country have? Users of social networks need to know about how some of their rights are being subverted and need to know how to protect themselves."
What do you think, readers? Noble pipe dream or the start of something big? Let us hear from you.