Teens can now post publicly on Facebook. Should it be allowed? [POLL]

Filed Under: Facebook, Featured, Privacy

Facebook privacy changesOn Wednesday, Facebook knocked over a privacy policy that kept underage users from posting publicly.

Users between the ages of 13 and 17 had up until now been allowed to share only with friends or friends of friends.

Now, the world is their oyster. They may share information with the general public.

Or, as privacy watchdogs see it, teens are now succulent morsels for marketers to slurp up.

The default setting until now has been to limit posts to friends of friends - kind of a door half-open thing. With Wednesday's announcement, Facebook has closed the door a bit more on that, with the default for new teen users now set to limit posts to friends.

However, Facebook's policy changes also now give them the option of opening the door all the way - allowing them to share posts with the general, teeming world of the internet, in all its glory, goodness, depravity and sheer, capitalist drive to sell more potato chips or sports drinks or what have you to those with not-yet-developed neural anatomy.

In a blog post, Facebook said the changes will give teens more control over what information they share with the public.

Teens will also be able to turn on "Follow" so that their public posts can be seen in people's News Feeds. As always, Facebook said, followers can only see posts for which they are in the audience.

How will this privacy change affect teens? Privacy watchdogs don't like it one little bit.

As it is, privacy groups were already up in arms before this change.

In September, they sent a letter to the US Federal Trade Commission (FTC), asking that the government take a closer look at Facebook's proposed privacy changes and how those changes will negatively impact teens.

Of particular concern is a change to Facebook policy that would rubber-stamp the use of teenagers' names, images and personal information to endorse products in advertisements.

One of the privacy watchdogs petitioning the FTC, the Center for Digital Democracy (CDD), said in a blog posting on Wednesday that letting teens post publicly is yet another blow to privacy safeguards.

In fact, Facebook's claims that the change will bolster teens' privacy is bogus, the CDD charges:

Facebook is being dishonest with parents and teens. To parents and teens, Facebook is claiming they are giving them more options to protect their privacy. But in reality, they are making a teen's information more accessible, now that they have the option to post publicly. Today's announcement actually removes a safeguard that teens currently have, that they only can expose (share) their posts with friends of friends. Under Facebook's new plan, a teen can share their information with anyone on Facebook or the Internet.

Beyond that, the CDD says, allowing teens to post publicly pretty much boils down to a win for companies that will be able to more easily hawk things such as junk food at teens:

[The privacy policy] change ... potentially [gives] teens the same exposure that adults have on its platform. As marketers stealthily mine social media data, they will capture a teen's public posts. That data will help create more robust data profiles of teens to be used for targeting. If a teen posts publicly—about a brand or not—it's all available for marketers. Junk food and other companies have now been given a better opportunity by Facebook to target teens.

Besides more efficiently turning teens into marketing targets, Facebook's latest announcement is, in my opinion, a declaration that Facebook lives on a different planet than the rest of us.

On this planet, teens (or their friends) apparently don't accidentally post things publicly, such as a party invitation that leads to 600 gatecrashers trashing the home of parents away on vacation.

In its announcement, Facebook buttered up the teen demographic, saying this age group is "among the savviest people using social media," and saying that "whether it comes to civic engagement, activism, or their thoughts on a new movie, they want to be heard."

Maybe they do. Maybe they do.

But do they really want to be heard on Facebook?

I heard they're hanging out at Tumblr, so maybe that's wishful thinking on Facebook's part.

What do you think? If you're a parent, are you fine with the idea of your teen publicly posting?

Or does it haunt you with the specter of having your kid a) ruthlessly marketed at and/or b) posting truly embarrassing, potentially career-crushing Facebook updates?

Facebook says it takes teens' safety "very seriously."

That's why it's offering extra reminders before teens will be allowed to share publicly.

When teens choose "Public" in a posting's audience selector, they’ll see a reminder that the post can be seen by anyone, not just people they know, with an option to change the post’s privacy.

If teens choose to continue posting publicly, they'll be given one more reminder.

Parents, is that enough of a safeguard, to your mind?

Please share your thoughts in the comments section below.

If you want to stay on top of privacy and security threats on Facebook and elsewhere on the internet, join the Naked Security Facebook page.

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12 Responses to Teens can now post publicly on Facebook. Should it be allowed? [POLL]

  1. Andrew · 334 days ago

    I believe that Facebook are forgetting these kids are under age and anything they say or post may put them into danger. Facebook reconsider this is all I say to you. Do you really want some parent suing you for damage to his or her child because you have allowed this freedom. Not a good Idea.

    • Beast777 · 170 days ago

      Yo Homie, this thing has it's ups and downs I'm a teenager myself, I post a lot of stuffs with the "public" option, till date, I ain't never regretted what I said or posted. Too many uneducated teenagers these days, they be posting some things that are private in nature and end up crying later. I ain't one of those, I suggest all the teenagers to get educated about cybersecurity and become a privacy aware person like me.

  2. I personally don't feel that anyone under the age of 16 should have a FB account, and from 16 - 21 should only be allowed to have their accounts open to friends. Kids today share way to much information that can get them in trouble as it is, opening it to "public" is the biggest mistake they could possibly make. FB has taken away to many of our privacy options as it is, and as soon as I get all of my photos downloaded, I will be deleting my account.

    • Beast777 · 170 days ago

      This is plain stupid, I'm under 16 got a facebook account, shared a lot of stuffs in "public" mode ain't never put out "Too much private" information. It all depends on the user, if he/she ain't smart enough, they will fall prey to stalkers and such, girls tend to be more vulnerable, I have seen a lot of cases of such happenings, they be trusting some stranger on the internet and send 'em a sensitive photo or message and ends up crying, suiciding, regretting later.

  3. ScottK · 333 days ago

    No good can come of this.

  4. Toney · 333 days ago

    Facebook has no concern about kids, its all about monet for their investors since they went public. How much money do you need and when you die its not going with you.

  5. brightspark · 333 days ago

    I voted a resounding NO. I can still remember my own teenage years (even though they were a looong time ago... we were all ten foot tall and bullet proof. Afraid of nothing and no-one. Implications? What are they? :)

  6. isteeves · 333 days ago

    I agree with the above, teens are not mature enough, a good example here in Canada a teen (15 year old girl) bullied, beat up an autistic school mate and posted that video on FB!!!
    how mature is that??

  7. This is stupid because all of these teens lie about their birth date when they setup their accounts. So they have had full access anyway.

  8. Jonny · 333 days ago

    It's hard for me to believe that Facebook has the b@11$ to actually do this...actually it doesn't surprise me. I hope they're given a mega-fine and their stocks go down the crapper.

  9. Denise · 332 days ago

    Teens becoming marketing targets is a lesser concern to me. How about the danger of more of them becoming targets for pedophiles and other creeps that troll the internet and have a way of worming themselves into future victims' lives? Why make it easier for them?

  10. making money is what ruthless FB does - this is not a surprise

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About the author

I've been writing about technology, careers, science and health since 1995. I rose to the lofty heights of Executive Editor for eWEEK, popped out with the 2008 crash, joined the freelancer economy, and am still writing for my beloved peeps at places like Sophos's Naked Security, CIO Mag, ComputerWorld, PC Mag, IT Expert Voice, Software Quality Connection, Time, and the US and British editions of HP's Input/Output. I respond to cash and spicy sites, so don't be shy.