Even in Defeat, Corbett’s Internet Privacy Bill Makes a Point

By Steven Tavares
Follow @eastbaycitizen on twitter (ironic, huh?)

Either the California State Senate isn’t ready for Sen. Ellen Corbett’s Internet privacy bill or it is sitting quietly as an industry like social media begins to wraps its arms around legislatures across the country like no other lobby since the robber barons a century ago.

Sites like Facebook are just getting
starting when it comes to lobbying

As Corbett’s SB 242 failed in the state Senate last week, only a few of her colleagues strongly supported the measure in either party, but few strongly opposed it, too. The middle ground, it seemed, was for some starving senators to offer culinary references by calling the bill “not fully-cooked.”

This is the second time in two years Corbett has taken on social media and lost, but her fight is doing one thing: bringing notice to state houses and constituents that web sites like Google, Facebook and Twitter have beaten back regulation without a consistent or sizable lobby.

Since its reach into the lives of its millions of users is already ubiquitous, spending big dollars for lobbyists to twist the arms of lawmakers is almost a waste of money until now. The slow rise of lobbyists for social media companies on Capitol Hill and Sacramento should cause many of us to worry about what soon will be an albatross hovering over almost everything we do.

Corbett’s privacy bill merely sought to give control to new users as a default setting, not as it currently sits as exposing your private information and tastes until you opt-out later. Of course, almost nobody thinks to protect themselves or question sites like Facebook before linking up with friends. The legislation would also give parents a right to delete information from the pages of their children.

Facebook, for one, took dead aim at Corbett’s bill since the 800-pound gorilla in the room says social media companies make boatloads of money from selling your private information and preferences to third-party vendors. Giving people an opportunity to be a customer of these sites without offering lucrative information to the company is like someone using the Wi-Fi at Starbucks without buying a $4 latte.

If Corbett’s fight for privacy on the net does anything, it gives many a new view of social media barons as something far less than the altruistic, fresh faced young Internet entrepreneur saying he wants to save the world or “Don’t be evil” when maybe the lure of greed and unmatched power is something government needs to be wary and possibly regulate more readily in the name of its people. The warning is this: social media has gained this power without cajoling government, imagine what they can do with an army of lobbying marching on Washington and Sacramento.

Rep. Anthony Weiner
with the ladies

SENATOR TRIES TO JOKE WITH CORBETT Sen. Tony Strickland’s (R-Santa Barbara) sense of humor might be good, but his timing was a little off last week when in the middle of a serious discussion of Sen. Corbett’s Internet privacy bill, he rose to pose her a question.

“Has Congressman Anthony Weiner endorsed this bill?” joked Strickland on the senate floor. Corbett, clearly flustered, grimly shot back, “If I knew that was going to be your question, I would not have agreed to have you ask it.”

“I know you ask in jest,” continued Corbett, who said she has not heard from Weiner and is not a friend of the representative who was caught in a web of lies after posting a lewd photo of himself to a female follower.