Facebook is still deciding whether to allow children younger than 13 to join the service, Chief Privacy Officer Erin Egan said in a letter to
Egan added that Facebook is continuing to examine recent research showing that many pre-teens have profiles on the site, despite the company's official ban on youngsters 12 and under. The Pew Internet & American Life Project reported last year that nearly half (46%) of 12-year-olds say they use social-networking sites.
A highly publicized follow-up study by social media expert Danah Boyd found that one in three parents knew that their children joined Facebook when
they were younger than 13.
Facebook is evaluating "the implications of this research and how we can best promote the safety of minors on Facebook," noted Egan.
She sent the letter -- which was made public on Friday -- in response to inquiries by Reps. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) and Joe Barton (R-Texas). Last month, they asked Facebook about reports that it was testing technology that would allow pre-teens to join the service and connect their accounts to those of their parents.
The lawmakers asked a series of questions about how Facebook would allow children on the site while still complying with the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act -- which prohibits Web site operators from collecting personal data from children under 13 without parental consent.
Markey and Barton criticized Facebook's response on Friday. The lawmakers said the social-networking service failed to "directly respond to concerns about how the site would handle kids under 12, especially with regard to data collection and sharing policies."