Father: Why Isn't Facebook Keeping My Kid Off Its Site?

from the parenting-is-for-losers dept

Facebook is a fascinating study in how different countries around the world deal with forward technology and the internet as a whole. It really is something of a Rorschach Test of each nation's legal system and process. We've heard recently how Germany nixed Facebook's "Like" button. UK officials had the brilliant idea that rioters would go back to sipping Earl Grey tea instead of throwing things at other things, if only they weren't on those intoxicating social networking sites. Meanwhile, in America, teachers in Missouri had to sue for the privilege of friending their students (because we might be able to trust these teachers to be in direct contact with our children, but not on the scary internet!).

And now reader Paddy Duke alerts us to the story of a Northern Irishman and his quest to get Facebook to keep his 12 year old daughter off its site. Because, really, who else could possibly accomplish such a feat? He is apparently suing Facebook for negligence.

The issue is that this gentleman's 12 year old daughter didn't tell Facebook she was 12. She said she was older, thereby routing around Facebook's age policy. Then she posted reportedly racy photos of herself along with other personal information, such as her home address and the name of her school. The kicker is that she did at least some of this while in the care of the Northern Health and Social Care Trust facility, which appears to be primarily an institution for children and the elderly who are suffering from mental health issues.

I have two questions. First, if Facebook is negligent in allowing her to use their site, what word should we use for this father also allowing her to use the site and not stopping her unwanted behavior? Supernegligent? Negultragent?

Secondly, what's the solution here? Any age check done by Facebook is going to be porous at best. The linked BBC article has a quote from this Father-Of-The-Year candidate's solicitor (attorney):
"An age check, like asking for a passport number would be a simple measure for Facebook to implement."
If it's so simple, I'd love to see this attorney take a crack at it. Passport numbers wouldn't work for a variety of reasons. First, you're potentially depriving Facebook of a swath of users who don't have passports. I recognize this is probably less of a concern in Europe, but it's still an issue. Also, what's to keep children from swiping their parent's passports to create accounts? This 12 year old girl already routed around her father's attempt to shut down her Facebook page. Do we really think she would have stopped at the "Input Passport Number Here" field, thrown up her hands, and went back to playing with dolls and sugersnaps or whatever her father imagines her doing if only she'd had real parents?

And why should Facebook have to implement such a system, paying the costs for doing so, all so parents don't have to parent? I'm not a father, which I recognize some will use to say that I just don't understand the trials and tribulations of raising children in the internet era. They're wrong. I do understand all that. That's why I'm not a parent. I know I'm not ready for that responsibility just yet. But if I ever do have children, I'll be sure not to take a website to court to cash in on my being asleep at the wheel.

Filed Under: blame, liability
Companies: facebook


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  1. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 8 Sep 2011 @ 9:19pm

    Re: Re: Re: [Comment #5]

    Fine, let me rephrase.

    Physical IDs are significantly harder to fake than a computer ID. The only protection you could give to a computer ID is by quite literally forcing someone to go into a government run office like the DMV (or foreign equivalent) and have them set one up there with PGP (which still isn't perfect). But that would be utterly worthless unless every single country in the world did the same. You can bet your house and every other asset that the online population of a country that didn't waste their money on that would skyrocket in months at most. And even if you got every country to agree to it, it would still have gaping backdoors.

    A virtual ID system costs significantly more than any supposed value it might have. Yea, it might stop the .1% of 12 year olds from Ireland from joining Facebook and putting up racy images of themselves, but it would cost millions at least in taxes just to get a halfway working system in place.

    Unless your IP has to match the country of your online ID, but then travelers would have to get an online Visa. Guess that's another couple million going to stopping the fringe minority from doing something they shouldn't.

    Feel free to let your government waste more money and take away your privacy on what's basically a fringe non-issue, but there are better things that money can go to, like educating future generations. Or science and arts. You know, things that actually matter.

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