A Social Network Users' Bill of Rights

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It's time for a Social Network Users' Bill of Rights -- and CFP's the perfect place to create one.

A broadly-recognized social network users' bill of rights would be a huge step forward for online freedom and privacy. For me, and hundreds of millions of others, sites like Facebook, Twitter, tribe.net, and free-association are how I stay in touch with friends and family. As Voces Contra Las FARC, Barack Obama, #iranelection, and hundreds of other campaigns have shown, social network sites are also vital for political activism. And yet, today we the users of the sites have only minimal rights.

A bill of rights sends a message to sites about what their users expect. With enough momentum, it can give user-focused commercial open-source projects an opportunity to distinguish themselves by adopting the rights -- and highlight the sites who aren't willing to. It's also a way of providing input in the ongoing debates about legislation and regulation. And just as importantly, the discussions around a bill of rights are a great opportunity for education and debate about what kind of online society we want to create.

There's already been some work towards a Social Network Users Bill of Rights from Jack Lerner and Lisa Borodkin, Mark Sullivan, EFF, free-association.net, OpenSocialWeb, and Duncan Work (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6).

CFP provides a unique opportunity to build on these efforts:

  • We've had in-depth discussions of these issues for years
  • We've participation from all sides in the debate: corporations including Facebook, Google, Yahoo! and Microsoft; privacy and civil liberties organizations like EFF, ACLU, EPIC, and CDT; activists and journalists to bring their perspectives and help get the word out.
  • With Facebook catalyzing a broad discussion of social networks and privacy, this year's conference is perfectly timed to make progress and get the media to cover the story.

So let's do it!

Over the course of the conference, we'll collaboratively draft a proposed Social network users' bill of rights and circulate it broadly online for discussion and feedback. Panels like Privacy and Free Speech: it's good for business, Privacy choices online, and Can an app do that? discuss the underlying issues, and the Unconference on Wednesday provides an opportunity to explore specific issues in more detail. We're also adding a session to focus specifically on the bill of rights (probably on Tuesday afternoon); details TBD.

In a Birds of a Feather session Thursday night, we'll finalize the wording, and ask for help translating it into different languages and posting it throughout the blogophere as well as on Facebook, MySpace, Yahoo!, Orkut, Buzz, and elsewhere for discussion. At the Friday afternoon plenary, Professor Dorothy Glancy will lead a session of debate and voting, streamed live over the internet with a Twitter backchannel.

We hope you're as excited about the possibilities as we are. Please join us, June 15-18, in San Jose California and cyberspace, and add your voice as we claim our online rights.