Federal laws, the Federal Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act of 1998 comes to mind, prohibit websites from collecting personal info from children younger than 13 without parental consent, but these laws are consistently flouted left and right. Last spring, Consumer Reports did the math and found that 7.5 million minors younger than 12 had Facebook accounts, which compromised, illegally, their personal information.
Facebook, of course, thrives on information gathering — Share! is its mandate and, like its tech peers (Google), it has been beefing up for increased political influence, in the form of lobbyists and a political action committee, to contest legal restrictions on its business model. Upon hearing the Consumer Reports news, Facebook had no qualms about making its position on the matter known: “That will be a fight we take on at some point,” declared its founder Mark Zuckerberg in a slightly muted rebel yell.
Facebook can provide a wonderful medium for young people to interact with friends and family, but if they lack guidelines for practicing safe engagement in social media, they risk being exposed to cyberbullying and other forms of harassment. So far, Facebook has proved to not completely dismissive of the issue — it is, after all, a proud partner of the police’s Amber alert system.