It’s been nearly four months since MySpace announced a joint agreement with 49 state Attorneys General to protect minors online—and now Facebook’s finally gotten around to signing on. CNET reports (emphasis added):
In the deal, the social network has agreed to develop age verification technology, send warning messages when an under-18 user may be giving personal information to an unknown adult, restrict the ability for people to change their ages on the site, and keep abreast of inappropriate content and harassment on the site.
When MySpace and the AGs inked the “Principles of Social Networking” (which I still say should have been named “Principles of Privacy for Minors in Social Networking”) guidelines earlier this year,
And yes, that one last state is still Texas. Oddly enough, however, Texas AG Greg Abbott (who, I’m sure, has a bunch of other things to worry about these days) had initially protested the guidelines because he felt they didn’t go far enough (emphasis added):
Although we believe that MySpace.com, along with other state attorneys general, is working to protect social-network users, we cannot endorse any initiative that fails to implement a reliable age verification system. Doing so would give Texas parents and their children a false sense of security.
At the time, MySpace’s Chief Security Officer Hemanshu Nigam said “that more research and development is necessary” on the age verification technology. I noted this weakness in MySpace’s original arrangement by pointing out that my minor sister’s MySpace profile says she’s 100 (though Facebook has her real age already).
However, as Facebook signs on to the guidelines, they have pledged to work on that very technology. MySpace seems to have gotten off easy here.
The new features in Facebook compliance will apply internationally which is kind of interesting, considering that the legal age of majority varies around the world, ranging from 14 (American Samoa, Puerto Rico, Uzbekistan) to 21 (Monaco, Argentina, Mississippi, to name a few. And yeah, seriously. Mississippi.). Most states and countries, however, do use 18 as the legal age of adulthood.
Facebook apps will also be required to comply with the new guidelines. For the full text of the guidelines, see TechCrunch.