Senate grills Facebook on issue of underage users

As you know, the US Government is grilling Google, Facebook and Twitter regarding privacy. Yesterday, a Facebook executive has to face tough questioning at a congressional hearing over the issue of underage users. The Senate Commerce Committee which termed "indefensible" that Facebook had only 100 employees monitoring the activities of its 600 million users, raised more or less the following two questions:

1) What Facebook is doing to weed out the underage users using its network? To this the Facebook Chief Technology Officer Bret Taylor said Facebook shuts down the accounts of people found to be lying about their age. But he acknowledged that Facebook depended on other users to report underage users.

2) On the question why Facebook is not using some more effective means to implement the age restriction? Facebook said that age restrictions are difficult to implement and that "there is no single solution to ensuring younger children don't circumvent a system or lie about their age."

Notably, the Lawmakers are not happy with Facebook’s efforts regarding underage users and privacy in general. Lawmakers and regulators are considering new online privacy regulations, particularly for children.

Earlier in the day, in a letter to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, the publisher of Consumer Reports asked the company beef up its efforts to keep children under 13 off the site.

In a survey this month, Consumer Reports magazine found that despite Facebook's policy, as many as 7.5 million children younger than 13 had active accounts.

The nonprofit Consumers Union’s plea in Facebook putting more efforts towards ousting underage users from its network; is based on its observation that young children (preteens), and even teenagers, don't understand the implications of sharing photos and other personal information on Facebook.

Talking in tandem with its pitch, Consumer Union asked Facebook to be "more diligent and effective" in protecting the privacy of the estimated 20 million people younger than 18 who actively used the site over the last year.

Urging Facebook to strengthen its efforts to identify and terminate the accounts of users under 13 years of age, and also to implement more effective age-verification methods for users signing up for new accounts, Consumers Union, gave Zukerberg suggestions like:

1) Facebook's default privacy setting for minors should be to share information with "friends only" instead of "friends of friends". In number terms, "friends of friends" category publicizes the average user's information to 16,900 people, shared CU.

2) Create an "eraser button" that would allow users to delete all potentially embarrassing information posted about them on the site when they were minors.

Interestingly, on contrary the Facebook founder and Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg wants children to be able to use the site in the future as an educational tool; the younger they are initiated to exploring the better. The 27 year old wants changes in a federal law that places restrictions on websites that collect personal information from preteens (a reason why Facebook has a policy that users must be at least 13 years old). --------

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