The Computers, Freedom, and Privacy conference and a Social Network Users’ Bill of Rights (DRAFT)

DRAFT!  Work in progress!  Feedback welcome!

Final verison intended for Pam’s House Blend

This week’s ACM Computers, Freedom, and Privacy conference comes at a perfect time, in the midst of firestorm about Facebook privacy, and with issues like privacy of healthcare information, the ‘smart grid’, intelligent transportation systems, and cybersecurity steadily affecting more and more people in our day-to-day lives.  We’ve got a great program and are webcasting a lot of the sessions.  Our web site at has a lot more information, including the program and broadcast schedule.  The Twitter backchannel is #cfpconf.  Please join us, in-person or online!

The Social Network Users’ Bill of Rights, also known as #BillOfRights, is one aspect of the conference I’d particularly like to invite Blenders to get involved in.  As I wrote in It’s time for a Social Network Users’ Bill of Rights,

A broadly-recognized social network users’ bill of rights will be a huge step forward for online freedom and privacy. For me, and hundreds of millions of others, sites like Facebook, Twitter,, 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.

Over the first few days of the conference, we’ll collaboratively draft a proposal and try to spark discussions across the web.  We’ve got a webcast Tuesday at 3 p.m. with authors of several earlier bills of rights, a Twitter chat Thursday evening, and will wrap up the conference Friday afternoon (Pacific time) by debating and voting on whatever we come up with — on Facebook and Twitter as well as in-person.   If we can get broad involvement, and build off the recent wave of media attention to Facebook privacy, it’s a unique chance to have an impact.

What rights should social network users have? looks at the excellent work to date.  There’s been a lot of focus on vital issues like control of your personal information, privacy, and data portability.   There are clearly opportunities to advance the discussion: there’s been a lot less attention so far to some other important rights like free expression and due process.  And there are a couple of potential rights, something that only came up in the discussions, where I’m especially interested in the Blend’s collective wisdom.

Should we have have a right to pseudonymous identities?  How about multiple identities?

Multiple and pseudonymous identites are the norm on sites like, Yahoo, and Friendster.  But on Facebook, they’re illegal.   Their terms of use require you to furnish your real name, and prohibit multiple accounts.  Their CEO Mark Zuckerberg has described multiple identities as a lack of integrity.   As Dara Lind points out:

Easy for Mark Zuckerberg to say. He’s a white, cisgendered, presumably straight male who went to Exeter and Harvard and has only ever been his own boss…. The notion that “having two identities for yourself is an example of a lack of integrity” is the sentiment of someone who’s never had to code-switch, someone who’s never had to be in the closet for fear of getting kicked out of the house …. For many, many people, having more than one identity isn’t a sign of “lack of integrity” because it’s not even really a personal choice. It’s the only way to survive in a world that isn’t always perfectly willing to accept and respect them for who they are.

Yeah really.  As Facebook become increasingly vital for day-to-day communication and political activism, the risk is that policies like this, even if only selectively enforced, reinforce existing dynamics of oppression.

So I’m wondering what people on a site that’s not predominantly white, cisgendered, and straight have to say on the subject — or any other rights for social network users.    Please drop your comments here, on the Facebook discussion thread, or tweet it to us at @cfpconf.

And please join in the rest of the discussions as well.  We’ll be posting an initial draft Tuesday night or Wednesday morning on our blog, and a revised draft Thursday night, and would love to hear what you think!