Common Sense calls on Facebook to address student privacy questions


Common Sense Media has released five questions related to children’s and teens’ privacy protections for Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg to answer during his upcoming congressional hearings.

In a statement, the CEO of the San Francisco-based advocacy group slammed Facebook’s behavior around user data and privacy policies as reckless, and one that prioritizes advertisers over children and adolescents.

Common Sense released the questions in response to the Cambridge Analytica breach, in which the data firm reportedly collected the Facebook user data of as many as 87 million people without their knowledge or permission.

“Facebook’s ‘move fast and break things’ behavior has been the same for years,” Common Sense CEO James Steyer said in a statement. “Common Sense has been talking back to Facebook for a long time, and they have refused to change. Many of the policy changes the company announced this week mirror our requests from years ago.

“Now we have to keep the pressure on, because if we lay off, they will go back to their old ways and solely protect advertisers — not kids, families, or our democracy — no matter the consequences,” Steyer said.

The questions are:

1. How many of the 87 million users exposed to Cambridge Analytica were teenagers? And how many teens had information similarly exposed to other apps? Will all users receive notification in easy to understand language explaining what happened?

2. In the past, Facebook has taken some steps to make default-settings for teens more privacy protective with respect to their friends and the public. Has Facebook taken any steps to make the defaults for teens more privacy protective with respect to sharing information with third-party apps, for advertisements, or other targeting? What about Instagram, which is even more popular among teens, but has default settings that promote public sharing? Will Facebook make the default setting for Instagram posts private?

3. Facebook’s new proposed terms of service appear to be the same for teens as well as adults. A 13-year-old needs different language and explanations in order to make informed choices. (And the General Data Protection Regulation, which Facebook has said it will follow globally, requires privacy choices that are freely given, specific, informed and unambiguous.) Will Facebook commit to using different language for teens to enable them to effectively exercise privacy choices? How will Facebook update teens on how to protect themselves?

4. Facebook’s new proposed terms of service continue to purport to allow Facebook to use teens’ actions and information on Facebook for marketing purposes. Will Facebook commit to stopping this practice of monetizing teen users?

5. The Messenger Kids app is specifically designed for children under 13, and intended to host intimate family conversations, photos and videos. Given Facebook’s failures to properly secure and protect its teen and adult users’ information, will Facebook shut down this app until it is 100 percent certain there are no privacy or security risks? How can families be assured their sensitive information is protected?