Federal Internet Law & Policy
An Educational Project
Privacy :: Social Networks Dont be a FOOL; The Law is Not DIY

Social Networks have several impacts in public policy:

  • Community: role of social media to promote connectedness, communications, self organization, and involvement in community and groups
  • First Amendment: social media as an enabler of dialog - participants acting as curators, critics, creators, and commentors of issues of importance to their community
  • eGovernment & Civic Engagement:
  • Education: use of social media tools in educational communities
  • Safety and Privacy: Safe use of social networks and control of private information
  • Security: use of social networks to promote dissident groups and violence (whether dissident groups use social networks to recruit and agitate)
  • Social Networking Sites: A Parent's Guide

    Derived From: Social Networking Sites: A Parent's Guide, FTC OnGuard Online

    Social Networking Sites: A Parent's Guide

    View PBS FRONTLINE: Growing Up Online
    Just How radically is the Internet transforming the experience of childhood?

    "It's 10 p.m. Do you know where your children are?"

    Remember that phrase from your own childhood? It's still a valid question, but now, it comes with a twist: "Do you know where your kids are — and who they're talking to online?"

    Social networking sites are the hippest "meet market" around, especially among tweens, teens, and 20-somethings. These sites encourage and allow people to exchange information about themselves, and use blogs, chat rooms, email, or instant messaging to communicate with the world-at-large. But while they can increase a person's circle of friends, they also can increase exposure to people who have less-than-friendly intentions, including sexual predators.

    Help Your Kids Socialize Safely Online

    OnGuard Online urges parents to talk to their tweens and teens about social networking sites, and offers these tips for using these sites safely:

  • In some circumstances, the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act and Rule require social networking sites to get parental consent before they collect, maintain, or use personal information from children under age 13.
  • Keep the computer in an open area, like the kitchen or family room, so you can keep an eye on where your kids are online and what they're doing.
  • Use the Internet with your kids. Be open to learning about the technology so you can keep up with them.
  • Talk to your kids about their online habits. If they use social networking sites, tell them why it's important to keep information like their name, Social Security number, address, phone number, and family financial information — like bank or credit card account numbers — to themselves. Remind them that they should not share that information about other people in the family or about their friends, either.

    Your children should be cautious about sharing other information too, like the name of their school, sports teams, clubs, where they work or hang out, or any other information that could be used to identify them or locate them offline.
  • Make sure your kids' screen names don't say too much about them. Explain why it's inappropriate — even dangerous — to use their full name, age, or hometown. Even if your kids think their screen name makes them anonymous, it doesn't take a genius to combine clues to figure out who your kids are and where they can be found.
  • Use privacy settings to restrict who can access and post on your child's website. You may approve of their friends from school, clubs, teams, community groups, or your family being able to view your kids' website, but not strangers from a neighboring town or school.
  • Your kids should post only information that you — and they — are comfortable with others seeing — and knowing. Many people can see their page, including their teachers, the police, a college admissions officer, or a potential employer.
  • Remind your kids that once they post information online, they can't take it back. Even if they delete the information from a site, older versions exist on other people's computers.
  • Warn your kids about the dangers of flirting with strangers online. Because some people lie online about who they really are, no one ever really knows who they're dealing with.
  • Tell your children to trust their gut if they have suspicions. If they feel threatened by someone or uncomfortable because of something online, they need to tell you and then report it to the police and the social networking site. You could end up preventing someone else from becoming a victim.
  • If you're concerned that your child is engaging in risky online behavior, you can search the blog sites they visit to see what information they're posting. Try searching by their name, nickname, school, hobbies, grade, or area where you live.
  • Check site privacy policies. Some sites may share information like your child's email address with other companies, which could generate spam and even spyware on the family computer. Sites' privacy policies or other posted links for parents also may contain contact information for you to ask about your child's personal information.
  • Education

    For More Information

    CIA's 'Facebook' Program Dramatically Cut Agency's Costs

    Federal Trade Commission —

    The FTC works for the consumer to prevent fraudulent, deceptive, and unfair business practices in the marketplace and to provide information to help consumers spot, stop, and avoid them. To file a complaint or to get free information on consumer issues, visit or call toll-free, 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357); 1-866-653-4261. The FTC enters Internet, telemarketing, identity theft, and other fraud-related complaints into Consumer Sentinel, a secure, online database available to hundreds of civil and criminal law enforcement agencies in the U.S. and abroad.

    The FTC manages, which provides practical tips from the federal government and the technology industry to help you be on guard against Internet fraud, secure your computer, and protect your personal information.

    GetNetWise —

    GetNetWise is a public service sponsored by Internet industry corporations and public interest organizations to help ensure that Internet users have safe, constructive, and educational or entertaining online experiences. The GetNetWise coalition wants Internet users to be just "one click away" from the resources they need to make informed decisions about their and their family's use of the Internet.

    Internet Keep Safe Coalition —, home of Faux Paw the Techno Cat, is a coalition of 49 governors/first spouses, law enforcement, the American Medical Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics, and other associations dedicated to helping parents, educators, and caregivers by providing tools and guidelines to teach children the safe and healthy use of technology. The organization's vision is to see generations of children worldwide grow up safely using technology and the Internet.

    i-SAFE —

    Founded in 1998 and endorsed by the U.S. Congress, i-SAFE is a non-profit foundation dedicated to protecting the online experiences of youth everywhere. i-SAFE incorporates classroom curriculum with dynamic community outreach to empower students, teachers, parents, law enforcement, and concerned adults to make the Internet a safer place. Join them today in the fight to safeguard children's online experience.

    iKeepSafe Tutorial

    National Center for Missing and Exploited Children —;

    NCMEC is a private, non-profit organization that helps prevent child abduction and sexual exploitation; helps find missing children; and assists victims of child abduction and sexual exploitation, their families, and the professionals who serve them.

    National Crime Prevention Council —;

    The National Crime Prevention Council (NCPC) is a private, nonprofit organization whose primary mission is to enable people to create safer and more caring communities by addressing the causes of crime and violence and reducing the opportunities for crime to occur. Among many crime prevention issues, NCPC addresses Internet Safety with kids and parents through and public service advertising under the National Citizens' Crime Prevention Campaign — symbolized by McGruff the Crime Dog® and his "Take A Bite Out Of Crime®."

    National Cyber Security Alliance —

    NCSA is a non-profit organization that provides tools and resources to empower home users, small businesses, and schools, colleges, and universities to stay safe online. A public-private partnership, NCSA members include the Department of Homeland Security, the Federal Trade Commission, and many private-sector corporations and organizations.

    staysafe — is an educational site intended to help consumers understand both the positive aspects of the Internet as well as how to manage a variety of safety and security issues that exist online.

    Wired Safety — is an Internet safety and help group. Comprised of unpaid volunteers around the world, provides education, assistance, and awareness on all aspects of cybercrime and abuse, privacy, security, and responsible technology use. It is also the parent group of, FBI-trained teens and preteens who promote Internet safety.

    Government Activity



  • Abril, P.S., 2008. A (My) Space of One's Own: On Privacy and Online Social Networks.Northwestern Journal of Technology and Intellectual Property , 6(1), 73.

  • Daniel J. Solove, Do Social Networks Bring the End of Privacy? Scientific American, August 2008.
  • James Grimmelmann, Facebook and the Social Dynamics of Privacy (September 3, 2008). NYLS Legal Studies Research Paper No. 08/09-7.
  • Security Issues and Recommendations for Online Social Networks , ENISA Position Paper No. 1, October 2007
  • Christopher Soghoian, Go Fish: Is Facebook Violating European Data Protection Rules? and Facebook Cares More About Privacy Than Security , 2007
  • Stefan Berteau, Facebook's Misrepresentation of Beacon's Threat to Privacy: Tracking users who opt out or are not logged in , CA Security Advisor Research Blog, 2007.
  • Alessandro Acquisti and Ralph Gross. Imagined Communities: Awareness, Information Sharing, and Privacy on the Facebook, Workshop on Privacy-Enhancing Technologies (PET) 2006.
  • Timeline


  • "Eraser Button"
  • What is the scope of the eraser button. What about a photo of me taken by someone else. What about a conversation I start online where multiple parties contribute. What is the scope of the thing that can be erased?
  • News
  • An Internet Eraser Button to Protect Privacy: Unwise and Probably Impossible, TLF April 19, 2011
  • Adam Thierer, Erasing Our Past on the Internet, Forbes , Apr. 17, 2011
  • socialnetworkssocialnetworks


  • Feds Stumble on Social Media Security, Privacy, Ecommerce Times 8/18/2011
  • Google+ to delete private profiles starting yesterday, CNET 8/1/2011
  • GAO Audits Gov't Agencies' Social Media Policies, Daily Dashboard 8/1/2011
  • Google+ reportedly hitting 18 million users, CNET 7/20/2011
  • Google+ officially tops 10 million users, CNET 7/15/2011
  • FTC reportedly investigating Twitter, CW 7/5/2011
  • How to Disable Facebook's Facial Recognition Feature, EFF 6/15/2011
  • Facebook stirs privacy ire with facial recognition, CW 6/9/2011
  • Senator To Facebook: I Don't Know How You Can Defend Your Company, Huffpo 5/20/2011
  • Congressmen Demand Answers From Facebook, Huffpo 5/16/2011
  • Facebook profile access 'leaked', BBC 5/12/2011
  • Griffin v. State of Maryland, Court Appeals MD 5/12/2011
  • Court Says Prosecutors Can't Just Assume A MySpace Profile Is Legit, Techdirt 5/6/2011
  • Assange: Facebook Is Most Appalling Spy Machine Ever Invented, Huffpo 5/6/2011
  • Facebook Shuts Down Legitimate Pages Because Of Bogus Claims, Huffpo 5/2/2011
  • Family Sues Facebook Over Photos Of Slain Daughter, NPR 3/30/2011
  • FTC Charges Deceptive Privacy Practices in Google's Rollout of Its Buzz Social Network, FTC 3/30/2011
  • From Facebook to Mug Shot: How the Dearth of Social Networking Privacy Rights Revolutionized Online Government Surveillance, Pace Law Rev 3/25/2011
  • The Majority Of America Is Now On Facebook, Huff 3/25/2011
  • Lee Raine, The Social Side of the Internet, Pew Internet 1/19/2011
  • Myspace Cries Uncle, Hands Lunch Money to Facebook, Gigaom 11/19/2010
  • Facebook security breach revealed, BBC 10/19/2010
  • Facebook's Broken Promises: Facebook Apps Leaking Private Data to Advertisers and Trackers, EFF 10/19/2010
  • New FOIA Documents Reveal DHS Social Media Monitoring During Obama Inauguration, EFF 10/12/2010
  • Facebook Moves Closer to EFF Bill of Privacy Rights, EFF 10/8/2010
  • New FBI Documents Provide Details on Government's Surveillance Spyware, EFF 5/2/2011
  • White House To Push Privacy Bill Of Rights, Huff 3/17/2011
  • Obama Web-Tracking Proposal Raises Privacy Concerns, Wash Post 8/11/2009
  • The Internet is redefining our relationships, reputations: Pew study says, Pew 7/7/2010
  • Open Letter to Facebook: More Privacy Improvements Needed, EFF 6/17/2010
  • Facebook's Zuckerberg reignites privacy brouhaha, CW 6/4/2010
  • Facebook Ranked Most Important Site for Social Media Marketing, clickz 6/1/2010
  • Facebook Violates Privacy Promises, Leaks User Info to Advertisers, EFF 5/25/2010
  • Digital Domain: World's Largest Social Network: The Open Web, NYT 5/17/2010
  • Faster Forward: Facebook meets the "Unlike" button, Wash Post 5/17/2010
  • Facebook's Privacy Crisis Is Also Its Opportunity, Gigaom 5/17/2010
  • Facebook's Eroding Privacy Policy: A Timeline, EFF 4/30/2010
  • Sens. press Facebook on giving data to advertisers, Wash Post 4/28/2010
  • Your Mom's Guide to Those Facebook Changes, and How to Block Them, Gigaom 4/23/2010
  • How to Opt Out of Facebook's Instant Personalization, EFF 4/23/2010
  • FTC member: Google's 'irresponsible conduct' with Buzz, CNET 3/19/2010
  • Yes, Twitter And Facebook Can Make People More Productive, Techdirt 3/2/2010
  • Students Given Detention Just For Becoming 'Fans' Of A Page Making Fun Of A Teacher, Techdirt 2/1/2010
  • Creepy Ways Your Social Media Data Can Be Used, Ecommerce Times 1/21/2010
  • Facebook blocks deletion service, BBC 1/5/2010
  • EPIC Defends Privacy of Facebook Users: Files Complaint with the Federal Trade Commission, EPIC 12/18/2009
  • etc: Facebook's changes to its privacy settings have led a han..., Ars Technica 12/18/2009
  • Facebook's New Privacy Changes: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly, EFF 12/10/2009
  • Cisco IPTV Broadcast: Annual Security Report Spotlights Cybercriminal's New Playground - Social Media, CISCO 12/4/2009
  • Scammers get better tools for tapping social networks, CW 12/1/2009
  • Facebook Hit With New CSRF Worm, Internet News 11/24/2009
  • Facebook's 'unfriend' defines 2009, Globe and Mail 11/17/2009
  • One out of Every Six Minutes Online Spent Social Networking, iKeepSafe 10/29/2009
  • Is the LinkedIn Platform Dead?, Gigaom 10/29/2009
  • Smart Use Of Facebook By College Helps Students, Techdirt 10/15/2009
  • Facebook Market Share Soars Nearly 200%, Internet News 10/13/2009
  • Social networking sites leaking personal information to third parties, study warns, CW 9/24/2009
  • Obama warns kids on stupid Facebook posts, CW 9/10/2009
  • Facebook sued for being a social-network site, Net Family News 8/20/2009
  • Study: U.K. Teens Gravitate to Facebook, Shun MySpace and Bebo, Clickz 8/20/2009
  • Social Networking: It is Good for Your Mind, Study Says, USTelecom 8/7/2009
  • Facebook tries to simplify privacy settings, Globe and Mail 7/2/2009
  • Teenagers' Internet Socializing Not a Bad Thing, NYT 11/20/2008
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