COPPA requires websites to “obtain verifiable parental consent” before collecting the private information of children under 13 but does not prevent websites like Facebook (which, like MySpace and other social media sites, came into existence after COPPA was enacted) from admitting children under 13. As Magid writes, sites like Facebook, Google+ and others block pre-teens from using them. Age limits are specified in their terms of service and prospective members must provide their date of birth to join — but such is usually the only sort of age verification requested, as other sorts of verification tools potentially have “unintended security and privacy consequences such as the risk of leaking the names and ages of children.”
Magid notes that the FTC is reviewing COPPA, with some wanting its controls extended to those 18 and over and others calling for it to be liberalized.
But it is not only privacy concerns that parents and all of us should be concerned about as Facebook seeks to open its service to children 13 and under. The Wall Street Journal notes that doing so could “help the company tap a new pool of users for revenue.” With Facebook tracking our every “like” and the words in status updates and comments, not to mention the vast trove of personal data it has from users, making its site accessible to children under 13 should be seen as what it is: A business decision intended to help shore up the company’s profits. Facebook’s share price fell to a new record low today ($26.57) after a report from Sanford Bernstein gave it an underperform rating and a $25 target price. ”It is difficult to argue for owning the stock today,” the report’s author, analyst Carlos Kirjner wrote.
It is not difficult to see why Facebook might be wishing to add to its 900 million users.
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