Student Data Privacy

Common Sense Pushes FTC to Make New Rules on Use of Minors' Data

Common Sense Pushes FTC to Make New Rules on Use of Minors' Data 

One organization views the Facebook debacle as a ripe opportunity to get privacy rules right in regards to young people. Common Sense Media has filed a request with the Federal Trade Commission to investigate the impact of the Facebook data mishandling specifically on teenagers. The disclosure, of course, involves the information scraped from the social media site by Cambridge Analytica.

The letter, addressed to FTC Acting Chairman Maureen Ohlhausen and Commissioner Terrell McSweeny, suggested that because teens were highly likely to take personality quizzes, play games, friend other teens and share content, they could be "disproportionately harmed" by Facebook's actions.

The non-profit, which provides tools and reviews to help parents and teachers vet media for use by children, has also asked that future decrees or orders include provisions that directly address users under 18. "Privacy policies and terms of service are notoriously dense for adults, let alone for youth," the letter noted, "calling into question teens' abilities to understand all of the nuances that may be buried in them. Teens deserve clear policies written for their age and level of understanding."

The same letter also recommended that the FTC require Facebook to bolster its privacy protection defaults. While the social media site has some settings for teens to help them manage sharing with other members of the public, Common Sense asserted, it doesn't offer the same for sharing of information with apps or advertisers.

"Teens are especially vulnerable to privacy harms such as identity theft and reputational damage that can affect education and employment opportunities," the letter stated. "We ask you to take full advantage of this chance to protect them."

The agency hasn't responded directly to the issues raised in the Common Sense request. However, Commissioner McSweeny, who was appointed during the previous administration and intends to resign later this week, did issue a public statement suggesting everybody needs clearer control over their social data: "Consumers need stronger protections for the digital age such as comprehensive data security and privacy laws, transparency and accountability for data brokers, and rights to and control over their data."

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a former senior contributing editor for 1105 Media's education publications THE Journal, Campus Technology and Spaces4Learning.