California is considering new guidelines to protect its citizens from social networking sites that disseminate personal information. The proposed legislation, known as the ‘Social Networking Privacy Act,’ is geared at social networking users who are under the age of 18 years old. The proposed law would regulate how personal information is displayed and also would require social networking sites to remove personal information within 48 hours if requested by a user. In addition, there are fines for flagrant violations if the social networking site operators do not comply with specifics in the proposal, known as SB [senate bill] 242.

California is home to some of the most popular social networking sites such as Facebook, Twitter, Google, Zynga, and others who have formed a collation to oppose any type of industry regulation or proposals that these companies deem as unnecessary. The coalition of social networking sites believe that any regulation is unconstitutional and violates freedom of speech by limiting how user information is displayed. The coalition also believes that having users make privacy information decisions before being able to access a social networking site effectively removes all controls that are presently in place.

I am opposed to any type of regulation or law that prohibits anyone from being able to participate in any social networking site, no matter what the age of the person is. For children under the age of 18 years old, it should be the parents’ responsibility to regulate the child’s behavior. Yet many parents are afraid to invoke restrictions on how and when their children access the Internet. The children of today are more computer savvy than previous generations and know how to circumvent any type of limitations or restrictions, no matter what the law states.

On the flip side, I also believe that social networking sites need to explain in clear language what privacy controls are currently in place. I know that on Facebook it is difficult to understand the terminology, limitations, and accessibility features as they are presently presented on Facebook.com. I consider myself fairly computer literate and if I can’t understand the terminology, how is the average user supposed to understand the privacy settings?

It would seem to me that the social networking sites should take the responsibility to regulate their own sites. By providing simple to understand terms and restrictions, as well as privacy settings, users would be better served. In addition, the clarity of privacy settings and how they function could eliminate the concerns that some legislatures have about social networking sites and user privacy.

Comments welcome.