California bill would boost online privacy for minors |

California bill would boost online privacy for minors

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) – The state Senate on Thursday approved a measure that would prohibit social networking sites from posting certain personal information about minors in California.

The bill would require the sites to remove the option allowing users to publicly post their home address or phone number if users say they are under 18. The measure passed 25-4 and now moves to the Assembly.

The bill’s author, Democratic Sen. Ellen Corbett of San Leandro, says the legislation will increase protections against sexual predators and identity theft.

“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.

A 2005 study by the Polly Klaas Foundation found that young people frequently engage in risky behavior online. One in 10 children between the ages of 8 and 12 said they communicate with strangers on the Web, the study found, while more than half of teens ages 13 to 18 said they have used instant messaging features to chat with strangers.

Social networking sites that knowingly violate Corbett’s bill could face fines of up to $10,000.

However, privacy advocates note that site operators can only act based on the information a user provides and cannot be sure of a user’s true age.

“This is a problem that’s encountered in many arenas where an individual falsely represents himself as being an adult,” said Paul Stephens, director of policy and advocacy for the San Diego-based Privacy Rights Clearinghouse. “I don’t know of any solution that currently exists.”

Stephens said he believes most young people accurately state their age on sites such as Facebook and MySpace because they use those services mainly to communicate with their peers.

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