Barton, Markey: Facebook avoiding details on children joining social site

Reps. Edward MarkeyEd MarkeyOvernight Energy & Environment — Presented by Climate Power — Senate Democrats ding Biden energy proposal Six Democrats blast Energy Department's uranium reserve pitch Facebook draws lawmaker scrutiny over Instagram's impact on teens MORE (D-Mass.) and Joe Barton (R-Texas) on Friday said Facebook did not respond to their questions in a recent letter about how the company would manage its social networking website if children were allowed to join.

The two lawmakers fired off a letter to Facebook last month after it was reported that the social networking site was considering plans to allow children to register to use it. The letter included a series of questions about how Facebook intends to protect young users’ information.

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While Facebook described how it complied with existing online child privacy legislation in its response, the two privacy hawks said it skirted questions about what type of information it would collect from young users and whether it would serve up advertisements targeted toward them.

In a letter sent to the two lawmakers last month, Facebook said the company hasn’t made a final decision about whether it would permit children under 13 to join the site but would discuss its plans with the lawmakers if that changed.

“If we decide to add tools to our service specifically for parents of kids under 13, we would welcome the opportunity to discuss our plans with you and your staff,” Erin Egan, chief privacy officer at Facebook, wrote in the letter.

The lawmakers still have the “same serious concerns,” Barton said in a statement.

Markey had a more critical response, arguing that the “privacy of personal information for pre-teens should not become a post-script in Facebook's drive for profits.”

“Facebook must resist the impulse to violate users' privacy, including the millions of children and teens who are reportedly using its service,” the Massachusetts Democrat said. “Now is the time we put children's privacy laws on the books to ensure Facebook and other online companies do exactly what we know they can do, and what we know they should do.”