Mark Zuckerberg wants clarity on his remarks about whether children under age 13 should be allowed to join Facebook.
While Facebook might consider allowing pre-teens to join the social networking site in the future, “we just haven’t gone there yet,” Zuckerberg said at the e-G8 Internet forum in Paris, according to PaidContent.
As Zuckerberg explained in his original remarks at a summit on innovation in education, current regulations–specifically, the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act–hinder Facebook’s ability to let children join the site. It’s theoretically possible, but a parent would have to fax a signature or use credit-card verification.
“In the future, it makes sense to explore that,” Zuckerberg said. “We would need to try to figure out a lot of ways to make sure they are safe. That’s extremely important. That’s not on the top of the list for things for us to figure out right now.”
Of course, plenty of children under the age of 13 are on Facebook already, as my colleague Tony Bradley pointed out. By Consumer Reports’ estimate, 7.5 million Facebook users are under age 13, and 5 million are under age 10. Short of vigilant parenting, the only thing stopping kids from signing up is an age gate. And it should come as no surprise to anyone that children are capable of lying about their age.
So this whole controversy strikes me as silly. If Facebook wants to create a legitimate process for parents to sign their kids up on the site, that’s wonderful. At least that way, Facebook could set up extra privacy safeguards for young users, such as restrictions on what information can be made public or shared with advertisers. Isn’t that what everyone’s worried about in the first place?
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