A bill, which would have required social-networking and Internet sites such as Facebook, Google, Twitter, Yahoo, Skype and online matchmaking sites to hide users' personal information unless they opt otherwise, failed to exit the floor of California's Senate on Friday with lawmakers tied at 16-16.
The bill, called SB 242, would have required the Internet companies to remove adults' personal information from sites upon request and allow parents to edit their children's web postings to exclude information such as home addresses and phone numbers.
The social networking sites were especially required to set up default privacy setting for registered users that only makes public the name and hometown of the user. Other personal information could be made public only if the user agrees to it. The restricted information includes include home addresses, telephone numbers, driver's license numbers, Social Security numbers, mothers' maiden names, bank account numbers and credit card numbers.
The bill required the sites to take down personal information from the site within 96 hours of a request made by a user. In case of users below 18 years of age, the site would require the personal information to be taken down if a parent makes the request.
Under the bill, each violation would require the violating company to pay fines up to $10,000.
The bill's aim was to protect Californians from identity theft and protect our children from predators according to Sen. Ellen Corbett (D-San Leandro), the author of the bill.
It was supported by groups including the California State Sheriffs' Assn., Child Abuse Prevention Council and Consumer Watchdog.
Internet companies had strongly opposed the bill, saying it would undermine free speech and growth of the state's vibrant Internet industry.
They fear that if users would have to make blanket privacy decisions before they even have used a service, the popularity of social networking sites would dip sharply.
The Internet Alliance, an industry lobbying group, said the bill was at odds with the Federal Trade Commission's proposed privacy framework and unfairly singles out social networks, many of which already remove personal information upon request under certain circumstances.
The senators who voted against the passage of the bill felt it was too serious a matter for the state to deal alone.
I think ultimately it needs some sort of national legislation, said state Sen. Mark Wyland (R-Escondido), who had voted no.
Those who opposed the bill also said the passage of the bill would violate the U.S. Constitution by improperly restricting interstate commerce and curbing free speech.
However, Corbett remains undaunted. The senator plans to bring the bill back for another vote next week. That will probably be her last chance to win passage as next Friday is the deadline for any bills to pass out of the Senate this session.
Corbett said she wasn't surprised by Friday's outcome. She acknowledged that she faces a heavy duty onslaught of opposition from Facebook and other social networking sites. I guess they're just trying to kill a bill that's going to protect people's privacy, she said, adding, I'm not afraid of a fight.
She'll be working in the next few days to get several key members to reconsider their votes, Corbett spokesman Andrew LaMar said.
The bill needs 21votes to pass the Senate.