Groups Ask the FTC to Take a Closer Look at How Facebook’s Recent Proposed Privacy Changes Will Negatively Impact Teens

Washington, DC: Over 20 public health, media, youth, and consumer advocacy groups sent a letter to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) today objecting to Facebook’s recent proposed changes to its privacy policy. The groups raised concerns about the potential negative impact of these changes on teens.

In a letter to the Federal Trade Commission’s Chairwoman Edith Ramirez, groups working on teen-related issues—including American Academy of Pediatrics, Consumers Union, Public Citizen, Consumer Watchdog, Pediatrics Now, and the National Collaboration for Youth—challenged changes to the “Statement of Rights and Responsibilities” that give Facebook permission to use, for commercial purposes, the name, profile picture, actions, and other information concerning its teen users. The groups also objected to new language directed at 13-17 year-old users that states that teens “represent that at least one of their guardian’s or parent’s have given consent for this use of their personal information on their behalf.”

As groups with a broad range of expertise and years of research in issues related to marketing, media, public health, consumer rights, and youth, the concerns in the letter addressed—among other issues—the ways in which Facebook’s proposed changes would expose teens to the same problematic data collection and sophisticated ad-targeted practices that adults currently face.

“These new changes should raise alarms among parents and any groups concerned about the welfare of teens using Facebook,” observed Joy Spencer, who runs the Center for Digital Democracy’s digital marketing and youth project. “By giving itself permission to use the name, profile picture and other content of teens as it sees fit for commercial purposes, Facebook will bring to bear the full weight of a very powerful marketing apparatus to teen social networks.”

Dr. Gwenn O’Keefe at Pediatrics Now also expressed concern. “Given the number of teens who are legally on Facebook and pre-teens who are on there posing as teens,” she declared, “it’s in everyone’s interest that Facebook create an environment that is appropriate and healthy for the development of teens.”

Citing the FTC’s 2011 Consent Decree with Facebook, the letter asked the agency to hold Facebook accountable, redress the changes, and protect the interests of teens. (A list of the 27 signatories is attached.)


African American Collaborative Obesity Research Network

American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry

American Academy of Pediatrics

Benton Foundation

Berkeley Media Studies Group

Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood

Center for Digital Democracy

Center for Global Policy Solutions

Center for Media Justice

Center for Science in the Public Interest

Children’s Advocacy Institute

Children Now

Consumers Union

Consumer Watchdog

Corporate Accountability International

Pediatrics Now

Prevention Institute

Public Citizen

Public Health Advocacy Institute

Public Health Institute

Media Alliance

Media Literacy Project

Mercy Hospital’s Young People’s Healthy Heart Program

National Collaboration for Youth

Shaping Youth

United Church of Christ, OC Inc.

Yale Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity