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California Senate Rejects Bill That Would Increase Privacy On Social Networking Sites

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An internet user looks at a Facebook page dedicated to Anna Chapman in Paris on July 23, 2010. Two weeks after 10 Russian spies flew back from the United States to Moscow, the buzz of interest around the ring's most photogenic member, the feisty redhead Anna Chapman, shows no signs of receding. While Chapman remains in an unknown location since her arrival in Moscow, reportedly being debriefed, she has apparently found time to write enigmatic Facebook updates and negotiate with journalists on her first interview. (Photo by Thomas Coex/AFP/Getty Images)

An internet user looks at a Facebook page dedicated to Anna Chapman in Paris on July 23, 2010. Two weeks after 10 Russian spies flew back from the United States to Moscow, the buzz of interest around the ring’s most photogenic member, the feisty redhead Anna Chapman, shows no signs of receding. While Chapman remains in an unknown location since her arrival in Moscow, reportedly being debriefed, she has apparently found time to write enigmatic Facebook updates and negotiate with journalists on her first interview. (Photo by Thomas Coex/AFP/Getty Images)

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SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — California senators rejected a bill Friday designed to increase privacy on social networking sites, persuaded by objections from some of the burgeoning industry’s biggest players.

   Sen. Ellen Corbett’s Senate Bill 242 would bar social networking websites from automatically revealing a user’s address, phone number and similar information unless there is a clear warning they will do so. Users could opt of displaying the information if they wish.

   The bill received just 16 of the 21 votes it needed to pass the Senate. Corbett, D-San Leandro, said she will seek more support and plans to bring her bill up again before next week’s bill-passage deadline.

   Similar bills are being discussed in Congress and other states, but Corbett said her bill would be the nation’s most far-reaching attempt to control social networking privacy features and has made the most progress toward becoming law.

   Corbett said that her bill would provide commonsense privacy protections. The information that she wants to protect includes driver’s license numbers, Social Security numbers, employee identification numbers, savings account numbers, credit card numbers, and information about their current geographic location such as global positioning coordinates.

   Users could opt to release the information.

   Facebook, Google, Twitter, Yahoo, Skype and online matchmaking sites are among the companies opposed to it.

   “It’s important to remember, our privacy information is not a commodity owned by the Internet,” Corbett said.

   The bill would require websites to remove the protected information for users younger than 18 at their parents’ request. Corbett said she introduced the bill to “protect people from identity theft and to protect children from predators.”

   “There is absolutely no evidence this will hurt business,” she argued. “It will build trust with consumers.”

   Internet companies opposing the measure said in a May 16 letter that the bill would violate constitutional free speech protections. They argued it would undermine consumers’ ability to make informed choices about the use of their personal information “while doing significant damage to California’s vibrant Internet commerce industry at a time when the state can least afford it.”

   Most sites now let users reveal or conceal personal information in the context of what they are doing at any particular time, the companies said.

   Corbett’s bill would force them to make blanket privacy decisions before they ever have used a service.

   (Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press.  All Rights Reserved.)

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