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

Mountlake Terrace-based 1st Security Bank wasn’t traded publicly during the recession, but it has seen a steady growth since the recession. (Jim Davis / HBJ)
How stocks in local banks fared since the recession

Every bank was hit hard during the recession, but most have bounced back in a big way.

Boeing bolsters team for potential 797 with leading engineer

Terry Beezhold has been chief project engineer for the 777X program.

The FCC chairman moves to repeal ‘net neutrality’ rules

His plan would allow internet providers to control broadband speeds and favor their own services.

Tom Hoban
Are millennials warming up to life in suburbia?

They dominate the apartment market and their wants need to be accounted for, says columnist Tom Hoban.

Camano artist mixes flask, paintings for successful cocktail

Art flasks prove popular as bachelorette gifts, birthday presents and wedding favors.

Katie Garrison
New agent joins Re/Max Elite’s office in Snohomish

Re/Max Elite welcomed a new agent to its Snohomish office. Katie Garrison… Continue reading

UW Bothell Pub Talk looks at Greenhouse Gas Mystery

The Greenhouse Gas Mystery is the topic for the next UW Bothell… Continue reading

EvergreenHealth Monroe pharmacy interns travel to Ghana

Earlier this year, University of Washington School of Pharmacy students and EvergreenHealth… Continue reading

Everett Clinic Foundation gives $6,500 to nonprofit Christmas House

The Everett Clinic Foundation recently awarded a $6,500 operating grant to the… Continue reading

Most Read