[iDC] Why Parents Help Children Violate Facebook’s 13+ Rule

Christian Fuchs christian.fuchs at uti.at
Fri Nov 4 21:32:24 UTC 2011

I also read this article and can only agree with Mark and support his 

The crucial question (Table 13) only talks about government involvement 
in setting age limits, there is no talk about targeted advertising, 
company practices, political economy, capitalism, etc - the question 
formulation is manipulative and is framed by liberal ideology that stirs 
sentiments against government intervention and ignores (as in the whole 
study) political economy, advertising culture, and capitalism.

No surprise the only conclusion is "but the key to helping children and 
their parents enjoy the benefits of those solutions is to abandon 
age–based mechanisms that inadvertently result in limiting children’s 
options for online access".

No questioning of the corporate character of social media, etc etc. 
There was once a guy called Lazarsfeld making a distinction between 
administrative and critical communication research... This is just 
another study about social media in the whole vast universe of 
administrative social media research output... Such studies are not only 
adminstrative, they are so extremly lacking any theory skills and are 
only boring.

Best, CF

Am 11/3/11 9:00 AM, schrieb Mark Andrejevic:
> Thanks for this heads up about an interesting and provocative study.
> What I find disturbing about it is the fact that the question of
> tracking is downplayed in your survey, even though the issue of tracking
> is a /core/ concern of the policy measures the study purportedly addresses.
> What emerges from your findings is that most parents think that age
> restrictions have to do with issues of maturity and safety which they
> can address themselves (without the heavy hand of the state, thanks very
> much) through awareness/monitoring of their children's activity (and
> state guidelines). Only two parents in the sample mention privacy --
> none, I gather, mention tracking and targeting.
> I'm willing to bet you would have gotten very different results if you
> had specifically addressed the questions of behavioral tracking,
> data-mining, and targeted advertising by, say, asking parents whether
> age restrictions should be set on the ability of companies to collect,
> save, and mine detailed data about children's behavior in order to
> market to them more effectively -- which is, of course, the question at
> the heart of the tracking measures you discuss. It is telling that only
> 9 percent of respondents reported that their children's data were used
> for marketing and advertising -- when, of course, this is the case for
> 100 percent of those parents whose kids are on Facebook. Thank you for
> noting, in this regard, that. "Given how few parents believe their
> children’s data have been used for marketing and advertising, it is
> likely that: parents are either unaware of how these techniques work or
> they imagine a different aspect of marketing when they report their
> concerns regarding personalized marketing and targeted advertising."
> That lack of awareness is an important qualification to the following
> policy-related finding that parents, "are not looking for mandatory age
> restrictions as the solution to their concerns about safety and
> privacy." The preferred option for protecting children identified by
> your respondents: "getting parents involved in children's online
> activities," has to be understood against the background of the lack of
> awareness and understanding of tracking practices. Parents who do not
> understand how tracking works and don't know that it's taking place
> aren't going to be able to address the issues it raises through
> involving themselves in their children's activities.
> I'm also not sure how to square your claim that parents are not in favor
> of mandatory age restrictions with your finding that, with respect to
> data collection, "57 percent would prefer restrictions, even if it means
> that children in general will be banned from social network sites."
> (It's suggestive that you frame this finding by noting that, "Even when
> the focus is on data collection, parents are not uniformly in favor of
> restrictions on what information social network sites can collect about
> children." Another way to frame it would be to note that "A significant
> majority of parents favor some type of age-based restriction on what
> information social network sites can collect about their children"). I
> couldn't find a table for that, so I'd be curious to know how that
> question was framed. It seems to me to be a significant finding -- given
> the fact that a majority of parents claim to be willing to sacrifice
> access in order to protect their children from certain types of
> tracking. What if the option were that children could have access to
> such sites without being tracked? My guess is that you'd see an even
> larger majority of parents saying they would prefer access with
> restrictions on tracking, even if that meant government regulation.
> When it comes to data-collection regulations, I think it is important to
> qualify your conclusion that, "Our data show that the majority of
> parents think it is acceptable for their children to violate access
> restrictions if they feel as though doing so furthers their children’s
> educational objectives, enables family communication, or enhances their
> children’s social interactions" with the observation that most of the
> parents who feel this way seem to have a lack of awareness or
> understanding of the data collection regimes that the legislation (which
> leads to access restrictions) is meant to address. To my mind this
> qualification (combined with the finding that a majority of parents do
> support some type of age-based restriction on data collection)
> significantly weakens the case against the regulations you target.
> While I'd agree with your conclusion that "universal privacy
> protections" are in order...I would also express concern about the
> framing and the practical import of your article. You make a case
> against the consequences of a law that is not doing what it is supposed
> to do (thanks largely to the way the industry has responded), but to my
> mind a much less effective case against the actual goal (of protecting
> children from the sophisticated forms of manipulation being developed by
> data driven marketers). Nor do you make it clear that parents are
> opposed to this kind of protection, at least in the case of tracking,
> monitoring, and targeting. Then you use the industry response to indict
> the law. We might equally critique Facebook which chooses to respond by
> restricting access ineffectively (and thereby getting to have its
> "underage" data too), rather than providing parents with information and
> options. Couldn't Facebook easily bypass the onerous process of parental
> notification and consent by providing an opt-out provision: children who
> indicate that they are under a certain age would be allowed access, but
> exempted from tracking. It seems that many of the issues you raise
> including parental preference for restrictions on data collection could
> be addressed by making the law stronger (preventing Facebook from
> tracking anyone under 13) rather than scrapping it.
> There is something cynical about the asymmetry in verification
> requirements: there must be verifiable parental consent for those under
> 13 to acquiesce to tracking, but sites are not required to get
> verifiable proof that those who say they are /over/ 13 really are. In
> other words, the workaround adopted by Web sites like Facebook is
> clearly structured to encourage lying -- and thereby to encourage
> tracking of "underage" users. Is it /really/ complying with COPPA to
> allow claims to be over 13 to be made without verification?
> Could we agree that what is going on, if we step back and sum it up is
> that Facebook is phenomenally popular among young people and an
> important part of their social lives. However, it is also a commercial
> site whose economic model relies on detailed monitoring, data mining,
> and target marketing. We have, as a society, placed ourselves in a
> position in which an important infrastructure for young people's
> self-expression and sociality relies on submitting them to the most
> sophisticated techniques for surveillance and marketing yet developed
> (remember when we used to worry about advertising in the schools?). In
> order to placate ourselves we have developed a law that, while
> purporting to protect children from -- or at least inform their parents
> about -- these techniques, actually allows the tracking and targeting to
> take place "unofficially."
> You point out that the law is ineffective and that parents who
> admittedly don't know how tracking works don't support government
> mandated age requirements -- except for the significant majority of
> parents who support age-based restrictions on data collection /even at
> the expense of loss of access/ by their children to important resources
> for sociality, family communication and education (am I misreading this
> finding? -- it seems like it runs counter to much of your argument). If
> the goal is universal privacy protection, I'm not sure why it wouldn't
> make more sense to provide workable protection for groups that have
> historically been easier to shield from the most aggressive forms of
> marketing and work from there, rather than to say the law should be
> scrapped because industry didn't respond to it appropriately and parents
> don't seem to want age-based restrictions (except for the majority who
> think they are appropriate when it comes to data collection). Indeed,
> the tone of the article, with its framing of regulation as an
> impingement upon personal freedom and parental authority undermines the
> concluding gesture toward universal -- and thus stronger -- privacy
> protections -- unless these end up being a matter of industry
> self-regulation. That would certainly fit well with the industry agenda,
> but I'm not sure it accurately reflects public preference (I know, I
> know, get funding for my own study...actually, there's one underway).
> If you're submitting this paper to the FTC in this form, I'd certainly
> be interested in addressing the arguments you make here in public
> comments to the FTC.
> _______________________________________________

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