Watchdogs Tell FTC: Facebook's New Terms Unfair To Teens

More than two dozen health, media and advocacy groups are asking the Federal Trade Commission to prevent Facebook from requiring teens to represent that their parents have consented to the social networking company's terms of service.

“The FTC, which has acknowledged that teens require special privacy safeguards, must act now to limit the ways in which Facebook collects data and engages in targeted marketing directed at adolescents,” the organizations say in a letter to the FTC.

“It should prevent Facebook from imposing unfair terms on teens and their parents that place them in a position of having to say they secured informed, affirmative consent from a parent or guardian.” Signatories include the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, Berkeley Media Studies Group, Center for Digital Democracy, Consumers Union and Public Citizen.

Facebook recently settled a class-action lawsuit about sponsored stories ads by promising to change some of the language in its terms of service, in order to reflect how the program operates. Among other revisions, Facebook said it would add language requiring minors to represent that their parents agreed to the terms of service -- including the use of their children's names and photos in sponsored stories ads.

(Those weren't the only settlement terms. Facebook also said it would give users more control over their appearance in sponsored stories, and would pay $15 each to around 600,000 people who objected to their appearance in prior sponsored-stories ads.)

U.S. District Court Judge Richard Seeborg in the Northern District of California approved the settlement several weeks ago. But when Facebook announced plans to carry out the settlement by changing its terms of service, the move drew criticism by watchdogs like the Center for Digital Democracy and the Electronic Privacy Information Center.

Facebook also proposed making some changes that were unrelated to the sponsored-stories litigation. Among others, the company said its automatic face-tagging feature will suggest users' names based on their profile pictures. In the past, the feature only based its suggestions on photos that users had been tagged on.

That proposal drew a rebuke from Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.), who asked the company to reconsider. He says that the change will enable Facebook to drastically expand its “faceprint” database at the expense of users who have posted profile photos but aren't tagged in any other pictures.

It's not yet known when Facebook's new terms will take effect. The company originally said the revisions would be effective as of Sept. 5, but later postponed the start date.

Next story loading loading..