Facebook Inc (NASDAQ:FB) is working on a system that will allow kids below 13 years of age to join the social network. According to a newly filed patent, parents of kids below 13 years of age will be able to monitor their children’s accounts and the system will comply with the U.S. Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COOPA), which restricts children below 13 years of age from using online services that gather personal data without explicit “verifiable parental consent”.
Two year old patent
At present, Facebook Inc (NASDAQ:FB) restricts users below 13 years of age from joining the social network. Last week, the U.S. Patent Office released the patent application filed by Facebook in November 2012, which details the system where parents would be able to authorize and supervise Facebook Inc (NASDAQ:FB) accounts for their children.
Using this system, parents will be required to verify their own identity and explain their relationship with the child before the child signs up for a Facebook Inc (NASDAQ:FB) account. Parents will be able to check up on certain content, friends and third-party applications such as Facebook games Farmville and Candy Crush. The social networking company will also design stricter controls for greater privacy and permission.
“Child safety advocates, policymakers and companies have discussed how best to help parents keep their kids safe online,” said a Facebook Inc (NASDAQ:FB) spokesperson in a statement sent to the Guardian. The statement added that just like any other responsible company, Facebook is also devising ways to tackle the issue, but a patent related to the research done two years back cannot predict future developments in this area.
Facebook already used by kids
Facebook Inc (NASDAQ:FB) will need to get an approval from the U.S. Federal Trade Commission, which enforces COPPA, before the company could start letting kids sign up. In the United Kingdom, access to children’s data and their access to online services are monitored by the Data Protection Act and the UK data protection watchdog the Information Commissioners Office (ICO). At present, the ICO is working to help educate children and parents and help them decide what is appropriate and safe to share online.
No matter how strict Facebook Inc (NASDAQ:FB) claims its measures are, the truth is that children already have accounts on the social network as it is difficult to identify the age online, especially if official government-issued identity documents or other age-related identity proof is not required.