Facebook Wants to Sell Kids’ Personal Info, Asks Parents for Approval
Facebook is asking for permission from pre-teen-Facebook users' parents to sell those kids' personal information, in order to protect itself from "regulatory risks."
By Constantine von Hoffman, CIO
The vast majority of Facebook users couldn’t care less about what the company with the ever-shrinking stock price  does with their personal data; otherwise they probably would have stopped using it. The new question: Will those users still feel the same way if the company is ogling (and re-selling) info about their 8-year-old kids?
In an effort to distract the press and investors from another issue, Facebook is working on jargon that would let kids under the age of 13 use the social-networking site, as long as it’s under parental supervision. (Because, as we all know from reading the Facebook user agreement, you must be over 13 to have an account…..that’s why there are an estimated 7.5 million users below the age of 13.)
According to the Wall Street Journal: Mechanisms being tested include features that would connect children’s accounts to their parents’ and controls that would allow parents to decide who their kids can “Friend” and what applications they can use.
Obviously, Facebook’s research has shown that parents just have too much free time on their hands. Oh, and we love trying to dig through all those Facebook control panels, too. (This Facebook research was likely done by the just-married-but-still-childless 28-year-old CEO Mark Zuckerberg.)
Now because Facebook’s executives can’t just come out and say they want the info to make money,  they have come up with the following excuse:
“But Facebook, concerned that it faces reputational and regulatory risks from children already using the service despite its rules, believes it has little choice but to look into ways of establishing controls that could formalize their presence on the site.”
“Regulatory risks” might require the FCC to actually take action. Even if they did any fine would amount to a fraction of the change Mr. Zuckerberg leaves on his dresser each night. Now Facebook is also worried about what those illegal pre-teen users might do to its reputation . For some reason I don’t think that’s going to be the main driver of public opinion .
What this is really all about is that even though Facebook has personal information on all those lying 10-year-olds it can’t actually use that information. That’s because federal law requires sites to get verifiable parental consent before collecting (and then re-selling) personal data from kids. One thing is for sure: The company will be just as vigilant protecting the kids’ info as it has been with everyone else’s.
1 Last seen at $27. That’s $11, or 28 percent, below kickoff. Don’t say we didn’t warn you.