In the wake of the Consumer Reports study that found that nearly 40% of minors on Facebook are actually under the age of 13, there has been a lot of discussion about age-appropriate internet use. Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg recently made his feelings pretty clear — Not only does he believe pre-teens belong on Facebook, he plans to fight to change the laws intended to keep them off the site.
The Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act requires that a user must be at least 13 years of age to sign up for a site that collects personal information. But speaking at the NewSchools Summit in California earlier this week, Zuck said that the law is keeping the young ‘uns from feasting on all the potential fruit of the internet.
“That will be a fight we take on at some point,” he said in regards to COPPA. “My philosophy is that for education you need to start at a really, really young age.”
As for how exactly he envisions youngsters using Facebook, Zuckerberg said, “Because of the restrictions we haven’t even begun this learning process… If they’re lifted then we’d start to learn what works. We’d take a lot of precautions to make sure that they [younger kids] are safe.”
Earlier this week, our partners over at Consumers Union sent a letter to Zuckerberg, urging him and his company 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.
The letter goes further, suggesting that for Facebook users under the age of 18, the default privacy settings should be set at the “friends only” privacy setting for all categories of information. It would then be up to each user to actively change their settings to be more public if they so desire.
Finally, CU suggest the adoption of an “eraser button” principle, allowing individuals to delete all personally identifying information posted about them on the site while they are minors.
“In law enforcement, juvenile records are expunged at the age of 18,” writes Consumers Union’s regulatory counsel Ioana Rusu. “Facebook should have a similar policy, allowing users to completely erase all personally identifying information posted to the site while the individual is a minor.”
Zuckerberg: Kids under 13 should be allowed on Facebook [CNN/Fortune]