Several consumer-, privacy-, health-, and child-advocacy groups are calling on Facebook to provide privacy and marketing safeguards if it opens the social-networking service to children under 13.

Our recent survey projected that more than 5.6 million children under the age of 13 already have Facebook accounts, in violation of Facebook’s current policy of barring preteens. Once children have registered for accounts with false birthdays, the site treats them as teens or adults, depending on their stated age, and subjects them to the same data collection and marketing practices used to target older users. The Wall Street Journal reported recently that the social network may be looking for ways to turn these children into legitimate users.

In a letter to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, the groups said that any potential Facebook platform for preteens should be parent-supervised and parent-controlled, with no advertising and no collection of personal information for marketing purposes.

In addition to Consumers Union, the advocacy arm of Consumer Reports, the letter was signed by the Center for Digital Democracy, the Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, Center for Media Justice, Center for Science in the Public Interest, ChangeLab Solutions/Public Health Law & Policy, Children Now, Consumer Action, Consumer Federation of America, Consumer Watchdog, Privacy Rights Clearinghouse, Privacy Times, Public Citizen, and World Privacy Forum.

The letter to Facebook recommended a list of safeguards to be incorporated if preteens are allowed on the site. For example, preteens whose parents are on Facebook accounts should be required to link their accounts to their parents’ accounts, and parents without Facebook accounts must be provided simple tools to monitor and preapprove their child’s activities.

Read Facebook & your privacy for details on who sees the data you share on the biggest social network.

Facebook may let children under age 13 use the site

Consumer, privacy, health, child groups: Facebook space for preteens must protect privacy, be ad-free and marketing-free Consumers Union

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