Facebook tests tech to link pages of under-13s with parents’ accounts

13 Jun,2012

If Facebook wants to open its doors to kids under 13 – as well as acknowledge the millions that are already there – it’s going to need to tread cautiously.


The social network is testing technologies that would link children’s pages to those of their parents and enable parents to approve friend requests and access to applications, according to a report in the Wall Street Journal.


These mechanisms wouldn’t be introducing young children to Facebook for the first time, but rather would give them a way to be there officially.


While the fact that young children are using Facebook is about as secret as the gambling at Rick’s in “Casablanca,” the notion of shepherding more kids onto the platform is bound to be controversial for reasons ranging from cyber-bullying to the unseemliness of potentially feeding their data into the engine that drives Facebook’s advertising business.


The report has already triggered a reaction from regulatory powers, with US Reps Ed Markey and Joe Barton, co-chairmen of the Bipartisan Congressional Privacy Caucus, writing to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg: “While Facebook provides important communication and entertainment opportunities, we strongly believe that children and their personal information should not be viewed as a source of revenue.”


There’s evidence to suggest that millions of parents would welcome the opportunity to give their children access to Facebook, with a Microsoft Research-backed study showing that 36 per cent of parents surveyed had knowledge of their children joining Facebook before they turned 13. But even though millions of children are already illicitly using the platform, Facebook could be more exposed legally if it opts to bring them out into the open, since the current setup allows for the company to maintain that the site is not designed for children under 13, according to Linda Goldstein, chair of the advertising, marketing and media division at law firm Manatt, Phelps & Phillips.


“I think they’re going to be buying a lot of additional regulatory headaches,” Ms Goldstein said. “The value of the data and the ability to eventually capture this data at such an early age is interesting, but they’re going to have to weigh that against consumer perceptions.” In order to move forward with any plan to open up the platform to children under 13, Facebook will need to comply with the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act, which states that sites collecting data from children under 13 must obtain parental consent.


Source: The Economic Times
Copyright © 2012, Bennett, Coleman & Co. Ltd. All Rights Reserved


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One response to “Facebook tests tech to link pages of under-13s with parents’ accounts”

  1. Start-ups like us (www.gungroo.com) are already addressing this market. What remains to be seen is, with the suspicion Facebook attracts when it comes to privacy issues, will parents accept this. Or new solutions will arise.