What rights should social network users have? (DRAFT!)

Draft!  Work in Progress!  Feedback welcome!

Final version intended for the Computers, Freedom, and Privacy blog.

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: a panel on Tuesday with authors of the most recent bills of rights; 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?