Social networking sites provide a great way to stay in touch with friends, family, and associates. By simply providing some information about yourself on one of these websites others can search for you and find out what you’ve been up to over the years by looking at your pictures and reading through the information you’ve provided the website. While these social sites have a lot of perks, many users have discovered that posting comments, pictures, and other personal information on social networking sites have left them vulnerable and resulted in acts ranging from being laid off to having their identity stolen. As citizens of the United States, we have a right to privacy through the Bill of Rights. Most of our privacy laws protect a person’s medical information and financial records. Because social sites have only recently gained popularity there are few laws that protect a person’s privacy on sites like Facebook.
In 1986, the Electronic Communications Privacy Act was established. This law allows law enforcement officials to access information stored on a server using a subpoena (a subpoena requires an individual to make certain information available, whereas a search warrant allows an officer to search for and take possession of information). The problem with this law is that it hasn’t been updated since the internet and social networking sites have become as popular as they are. As a result, it is incredibly easy for officials to obtain certain, personal information that may be stored on a website’s server. Modifications to this law would create more requirements for officials seeking information from a website’s server, thus more privacy would be ensured.
The Children’s Online Privacy Act was put in place more recently than the privacy act of 1986. The purpose of the Children’s Online Privacy Act is to protect children under the age of 13. Websites targeted towards individuals under the age of 13 years are limited in the types of information they can request from a user and make available to advertisers. Additionally, most social networking sites require that a user be older than 13. This law protects parents and their young children from predators and various scams.