Technology: Facebook's Second Try At Legal Access To Kids
Can we talk for a minute about the big education story that nobody seems to be paying much attention to: Facebook's long-anticipated effort to expand its (and other online companies') limited access to kids younger than 13?
As you may recall, Facebook head Mark Zuckerberg floated the idea of being able to "reach" younger kids last year at NSVF -- an idea with obvious appeal to the company, online learning endeavors, and entertainment outfits like Disney.
Zuckerberg even admitted that his $100M Newark commitment had come from his desire to get outside the bounds of the current COPPA law.
The company quickly walked the idea back during the ensuing uproar over privacy, bullying, and Internet predators. But it didn't go away entirely, bubbling along all fall and winter (see an update here), and it's re-emerged now -- cheered on by ed tech types and uber-pragmatists who note that 5.6M younger kids already join sites like Facebook. An early June WSJ story described it as "a step that could help the company tap a new pool of users for revenue but also inflame privacy concerns." Competitors like Apple might not excited, either, given their current dominance in the learning game space.
Some advocates oppose the move -- a Facebook-affiliated application I've never heard of called Skout has been associated with recent child sexual assaults (Atlantic Wire). Others just want younger kids' access to be much safer and more private than the teen and adult Facebook experience has been thus far. USA Today's Greg Toppo had a cover story this week about states' efforts to criminalize online bullying. But this is not just a technology, parent, or privacy issue, it's an education issue. One of the main justifications for opening access to younger kids will be educational. Meantime, Facebook has spent an unknown portion of its $650K in lobbying to get COPPA "reviewed" favorably.