What rights should social network users have?

The authors of the several recent social network bills of rights will be on a panel on Tuesday, June 15 at 3 p.m. Pacific time.   Please join Jack Lerner of USC Law School, Lisa Borodkin of LAist, Kurt Opsahl of EFF, and Mark Sullivan of PC World in person at the conference and on the #BillOfRights hashtag.

In It’s time for a Social Network Users’ Bill of Rights, we described the value of a bill of rights and sketched out the plan: discussions at the conference and online through the week; final debate and voting at the forum on Friday. We also linked to several existing versions of bills of rights and related documents, which provide a great starting place for the discussion.

Let’s kick things off by asking a basic question: what do we want the bill of rights to cover?

Several themes come up repeatedly in the documents so far. Informed decision making and transparency covers topics like notice before changes, the ability to see who can access data (including apps), clear user interfaces and simple settings, notification of law enforcement or private party access. Users should have ownership and control of their profile data and photos and activity and geolocation information and so on, sites should take only a limited license to use it, and sites shouldn’t share information without asking users for permission. Users should have the right to leave by deleting their accounts and data portability so that they can take their information with them.

Of course, these aren’t the only kinds of rights. Rebecca Mackinnon’s excellent More problems in Facebookistan highlights the importance of due process (for example decision by a person before suspending an account and right to appeal). free expression is an important value as well. free-association.net’s constitutional convention also had discussions of pseudonymity and multiple identities, a topic recently discussed by Michael Zimmer and on CrookedTimber (1, 2, 3), accessibility, and the right to use privacy-enhancing technologies. We, the users suggests that social network users have the right to be treated as a community, not a data set.

The list goes on … and I’m sure there are some that aren’t covered by any of the existing documents.

So let’s start the discussion. Please share your thoughts, for example:

  • which of these rights do you think are important?
  • what other rights — or different wordings of these — would you like to see?
  • what else should people read to get new perspectives?

Drop your comments here, tweet them on the #BillOfRights hashtag, put them on Facebook — or do your own blog post to go into more detail. One way or another, please join in the conversation!


In addition to the Social Network Users’ Bill of Rights, this year’s Computers, Freedom, and Privacy conference also features discussions of Robots and Civil Liberties, Augmented Minds, Cybersecurity, the History of Cypherpunks, and more! See the introduction, media release and full conference program here … and if you haven’t registered yet, what are you waiting for?


4 Responses to “What rights should social network users have?”

  1. Jon says:


    1. We, the users — Facebook users’ bill of rights, Jack Lerner and Lisa Borodkin, SF Gate, May 21
    2. A Bill of Rights for Facebook Users, Mark Sullivan, PC World, May 20
    3. A Bill of Privacy Rights for Social Network Users, Kurt Opsahl, EFF’s Deep Links blog May 19
    4. Global Privacy Standards for a Global World, The Madrid Privacy Declaration, November 2, 2009
    5. Constitutional Convention, free-association.net, 2007-2008
    6. A Bill of Rights for Users of the Social Web, Joseph Smarr et al., Open Social Web, September 5, 2007
    7. The Data Bill of Rights, John Battelle, April 25, 2007
    8. Call for a Social Networking Bill of Rights, Duncan Work, Planetwork Jornal, July 2004
    9. A Cyberspace Independence Declaration, John Perry Barlow, February 9, 1996

  2. It really is the time to rethink the concept of rights in an age where “Code is law.” Hope to get a lot of input from the web community at large.

  3. [...] within our constitutional right to privacy and our technological capabilities. Some of the policy issues this conference will be deliberating toward creating a “Social Network Users Bill of [...]

  4. [...] or deletion should be allowed. Most exports in the field would argue that putting it into the rules is not good enough, but at least if you did explicitly state that in the rules, then there would be merit in pointing [...]

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