We the people of Facebook Nation


Facebook has more than 800 million users. To put that in perspective, if the social network were a country, it would be the third largest in the world after India and China.  The technology has advanced so quickly that words like “friending” and “facebooking” have become part of everyday language.  But privacy laws have not kept up, and examples of personal information being misused without consent or knowledge are unnerving. This week came the announcement that Google is revising their privacy policy and with it, lots of questions about what that means for users. Lori Andrews, a law professor and consumer activist, writes about social networks and what she calls the “death of privacy” in her new book, I Know Who You Are and I Saw What You Did.   Among her proposals is what she calls a Social Network Constitution:

The Social Network Constitution

We the people of Facebook Nation, in order to form a more Perfect Internet, to protect our fundamental rights and freedoms, to explore our identities, dreams, and relationships, to safeguard the sanctity of our digital selves, to ensure equal access to technology, to lessen discrimination and disparities, and to promote democratic principles and the general welfare, declare these truths to be self-evident:

1.   The Right to Connect.
  The right to connect is essential for individual growth, political discourse, and social interchange.  No government shall abridge the right to connect, nor shall a government monitor exchanges over the internet or code them as to sources or content.

2.   The Right to Free Speech and Freedom of Expression.
  The right to free speech and freedom of expression shall not be abridged (and an individual shall have the freedom to use a pseudonym), as long as the speech does not incite serious, imminent harm nor defame a private individual.  Employers and schools shall be prohibited from accessing social network pages or taking adverse actions against people based on what they express or disclose on a social network, except in cases of imminent harm to another individual.

3.   The Right to Privacy of Place and Information.
  The right to privacy in one’s social networking profiles, accounts, related activities, and data derived therefrom shall not be abridged.  The right to privacy includes the right to security of information and security of place.  Regardless of active security settings or an individual’s efforts to guard his or her digital self, social networks are private places.

4.   The Right to Privacy of Thoughts, Emotions and Sentiments.
  Social networks provide a place for individuals to express themselves and to grow. A person’s thoughts, emotions, and sentiments—and his or her characterization by others—shall not be used against him or her by social institutions, governments, schools, employers, insurers, or courts.

5.   The Right to Control One’s Image.
  Each individual shall have control over his or her image from a social network, including over the image created by data aggregation.  A person’s image may not be used outside a social network for commercial or other purposes without his or her consent, nor shall it be used online for commercial or other gain without his or her consent.

6.   The Right to Fair Trial.
  Evidence from social networks may only be collected for introduction in a criminal trial if there is probable cause and a warrant has been issued.  Evidence from social network sites may not be collected for or introduced in civil cases unless the activity at issue occurred on social networks (such as defamation, extortion, invasion of privacy, or jury tampering).  Evidence from social networks may only be introduced at trial if it is directly relevant to the crime or civil action charged and the probative value outweighs the prejudicial value, the evidence is relevant, the evidence is properly authenticated, and the evidence otherwise complies with all rules of civil and criminal procedure.  In custody cases, social network information should be admitted only if it provides direct evidence of potential harm to the child.

7.   The Right to an Untainted Jury.
  Jurors shall decide cases based on the evidence presented in court and not information or inferences acquired from social networks, search queries, or other sources.

8.   The Right to Due Process of Law and the Right to Notice.
  An individual is entitled to due process, which consists of advance notice and the ability to control, correct, and delete the individual’s online information.  No information shall be collected or analyzed without advance notification of the individual.  That notification shall include an explanation of the specific use and purpose of the collection and analysis of that information.  There shall be a warning about possible repercussions of giving consent for the collection of that particular information.  Access to a social network shall not be denied based on a decision not to consent to the collection, analysis, or dissemination of information.  An individual shall have the right to know what entities are in possession of or are using that individual’s information and he or she shall have a right to gain access to and obtain a copy of all the information regarding him or her.

9.   Freedom from Discrimination.
  No person shall be discriminated against based on his or her social network activities or profile, nor shall an individual be discriminated against based on group data aggregation rather than on characteristics of that particular individual, unless the social network activities provide direct evidence of a crime or tort.

10.   Freedom of Association.
  People shall have freedom of association on social networks and the right to keep their associations private.