17th October 2013
Facebook has removed a restriction for its under-18 users which previously restricted who could see their online posts.
The move highlights the importance of taking care with both privacy settings, and the material posted on social networking sites.
The social network has said that 13-17 year-olds now be able to change their settings to make their posts and photos public. Teenagers posts have previously only been viewable to their friends, friends' friends. It has also said that the default setting would be available to a narrower group of people.
"Teens are among the savviest people using of social media, and whether it comes to civic engagement, activism, or their thoughts on a new movie, they want to be heard," said a Facebook statement. "While only a small fraction of teens using Facebook might choose to post publicly, this update now gives them the choice to share more broadly, just like on other social media services."
The non-profit Centre for Digital Democracy told Reuters that Facebook is sacrificing the safety and privacy of teenage users in order to further its business. "Teens don't necessarily have good judgment and to the extent that they make themselves visible to the wider public, there's all kind of people – from predators to junk food marketers – who are surveilling Facebook for new kinds of targets," said Jeffrey Chester, the Centre's Executive Director. He noted that other social media sites also allow teenagers to share information with the broader public, but that the amount of personal information that users have on Facebook is far greater, pointing out that users can create accounts with pseudonyms on other services.
Teenage users will also now be allowed to use the 'Follow' feature, which enables strangers to automatically receive public posts from another user without requiring that the two be 'friends'.
Teenage users will be shown a special notice the when they attempt to post information to the public, telling them that the post can be seen by anyone.
Users under 18 will still only able to receive private messages from their friends and friends of their friends.