Facebook eases privacy policies for teens

Facebook relaxed its privacy policies for teenagers on its network Wednesday, allowing underage users to share more information with the general public.

Facebook had previously prevented users between ages 13 and 17 from sharing information outside their extended network: their friends or friends of friends.

Under the new policy, when teens join the site they will automatically have stronger privacy protections and the information they post will be visible to a smaller audience, limited to just their friends. But the users will also have the flexibility to change those settings and share their posts with the general Internet audience.

In a blog post, Facebook said the changes will give teens more control over what information they share with the public. But privacy groups said Facebook has failed to address complaints that its data collection practices don’t adequately protect its youngest users. Facebook is addressing what teens “choose to share consciously, not the under the hood forms of collection that the site enables and has increasingly become more sophisticated,” said Kathryn Montgomery, a privacy advocate and communications professor at American University.

Facebook did not disclose how many of its more than 1 billion users would fall under the new policy, but a Pew Internet and American Life study in August reported that 94 percent of teens who use social networks have Facebook accounts. Under Facebook’s policies, underage users agree that their parents have given them permission to use the site, but the site does not require any certification.

Facebook said that allowing teens to share more with the general public brings the site’s policies in line with competitors. Teens, the company said, tend to have a good understanding of how privacy settings on social networking sites work. The Pew study found that many teens set privacy settings themselves or consult peers and parents for advice.

“Teens are among the savviest people using of social media, and whether it comes to civic engagement, activism, or their thoughts on a new movie, they want to be heard,” the company said in a blog post announcing the change.

The changes started rolling out Wednesday afternoon. Teens who opt for the looser privacy standards will be asked twice if they’re sure that they want to share their information with Facebook’s widest audience. The notification will also give teens an option to change the individual post’s privacy settings.

Stephen Balkam, chief executive of the Family Online Safety Institute and a member of Facebook’s safety advisory board, said that the new privacy settings show that Facebook’s attitude towards teen privacy has evolved.

It’s “a very positive step and something we’ve been deliberating on for quite some time,” he said.

Still, the changes don’t address questions Facebook has faced over the amount of data it collects about teens on its site. Privacy groups recently sent a letter to the Federal Trade Commission asking the agency to evaluate Facebook’s policies on this issue, and have the network create separate policies for teens on the issue of data collection.

“Right now, Facebook treats them as if they’re adults,” said Jeff Chester, executive director for the Center for Digital Democracy.

More in Herald Business Journal

Health-care consumers need to take the lead, so get smart

David Russian, CEO of Western Washington Medical Group, writes our third essay about fixing health care.

More business, more competition for Everett kidney dialysis center

Nonprofit Puget Sound Kidney Centers sees large for-profit competitors enter state market.

Molina Medical holds fall carnival for families in Everett

Molina Medical is hosting a free event for families in the Everett… Continue reading

Leadership Snohomish County celebrates 20 years of service

Leadership Snohomish County is celebrating its 20th anniversary. The organization was launched… Continue reading

Snohomish, Monroe manufacturers honored for innovation, excellence

Two Snohomish County companies have been honored with Manufacturing Excellence awards at… Continue reading

Remodeled home tours planned this weekend

This weekend, Edmonds-based Chermak Construction will participate in the 2017 Remodeled Homes… Continue reading

Barron Heating to celebrate anniversary at Marysville showroom

Barron Heating and Air Conditioning is celebrating its 45th anniversary from 10… Continue reading

Robots on Wall Street: Slow-footed regulators lose ground

Watchdogs have to figure out how to check computers running lightening-fast algorithms.

US budget deficit hits $666B, an $80B spike for the year

The deficit issue has largely fallen in prominence in Washington in recent years.

Most Read