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Facebook for Preteens Should Be Safe Playground: Consumer Groups

Consumers Union, the Center for Digital Democracy and other groups have asked Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg to adopt strong privacy and child-protection safeguards if it decides to go ahead and open up the social network to kids under 13.

The groups essentially want Facebook to create a safe play area for kids, including assurances that "any space for preteens will be safe, parent-supervised and parent-controlled, with no advertising and no collection of children's personal information for marketing purposes."

By most accounts, including a Consumer Reports cited by the letter-writers, millions of kids under 13 already use the site and they said they were glad Facebook was trying to do something to address that problem -- by making it parental-permission based access. But they don't want that to become an opportunity to market the kids, including by collecting info.

"Enforcing age restrictions on the Internet is a difficult issue, especially when many reports have shown parents want their children to access online content and services," said Facebook in a statement. " We welcome today's recommendations by consumer, privacy, health and child groups as we continue our dialogue with stakeholders, regulators and other policymakers about how best to help parents keep their kids safe in an evolving online environment."

Also signing on to the letter were the Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, Center for Media Justice, Center for Science in the Public Interest, ChangeLab Solutions/Public Health Law & Policy, Children Now, Consumer Action, Consumer Federation of America, Consumer Watchdog, Privacy Rights Clearinghouse, Privacy Times, Public Citizen, and World Privacy Forum.

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.