I guess it shouldn’t really be all that surprising, but as I just recently wrote on the inevitably of Facebook future disregard of its previously held “user first” ideology, the company has reportedly been testing technology that would allow children under the age of 13 to access the popular social website.
The site currently does not allow users under the age of 13 to register, of course a user could create a profile using a fake birthday, but this possible shift would be the first for Facebook actually recognizing and encouraging child usage.
This was first reported by The Wall Street Journal on Monday. Facebook knows that they are treading in some very tumultuous waters and doing some intensive testing in hopes to avoid some very possible blowback. In a market that is constantly under attack for lack of privacy restrictions, this only makes the arguments for higher levels of restriction more pertinent. With children potentially uploading pictures and video, the company must make sure that are extremely careful. These under-13 profiles would reportedly have many filters that hide certain information, and might also be accessible only through a parent account.
Still, potential privacy issues are already stirring some controversy. The recent security lapse of LinkedIn, leaking millions of passwords, doesn’t help the situation either. With Facebook struggling to address shareholder concerns about their advertising programs, many see this as thinly veiled effort to increase their revenue. If the company does open the social network to children under 13, that would create millions of new and highly targetable profiles for big brands to seek out. But not everyone thinks that would be such a great idea.
U.S. Representatives, Ed Markey and Joe Barton, co-chairmen of the Bipartisan Congressional Privacy Caucus, wrote Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg expressing their concern, “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.”