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FindLaw columnist Eric Sinrod writes regularly in this section on legal developments surrounding technology and the Internet.
Facebook has decided to let teenagers share their posts even more broadly.
According to The Wall Street Journal, Facebook users between the ages of 13 and 17 will be able to set their posts as "public," meaning that they can be viewed by anyone on Facebook, not just friends and friends of friends.
This shift in policy appears designed to allow Facebook to compete even better against other social media sites that allow for teen public posts, such as Twitter, but what will it mean for teens?
While public teen posting is already commonplace on other sites, some privacy watchdogs are concerned about this policy being adopted by Facebook. This is due to Facebook's broad reach to approximately 1.2 billion members globally (five times more than Twitter), reports the WSJ, and because Facebook allows teenagers to post a much wider array of media online and to comment more expansively than on Twitter.
Facebook has tried to address privacy concerns -- including the new search changes -- by stating that it is implementing a pop-up feature that warns teens that anything they post as public truly is public on the Facebook network. The WSJ reports that Facebook also is changing its default setting for teen posts so that they are only seen by friends, not friends of friends; yet, teens will be able to change that default setting.
To further stress its efforts to try to protect teens, Facebook reports that it is limiting advertising relating to dieting, alcohol and gambling, reports the WSJ. Despite being under investigation by the FTC for its new privacy policies, Facebook also maintains that it is trying to uncover teens who lie about their age to circumvent teenage privacy protections and restrictions.
While Facebook expresses its desire to protect the privacy of online teens, at the same time it does not want to restrict them so much that Facebook ultimately starts losing its teenage base to competitors. By opening up the public posting option to teens, Facebook likely hopes that its teen members will remain on Facebook and not go elsewhere in terms of social media.
Time will tell as to how this plays out.
Eric Sinrod is a partner in the San Francisco office of Duane Morris LLP, where he focuses on litigation matters of various types, including information technology and intellectual property disputes. You can read his professional biography here. To receive a weekly email link to Mr. Sinrod's columns, please email him at firstname.lastname@example.org with Subscribe in the Subject line. This column is prepared and published for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice. The views expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the author's law firm or its individual partners.
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