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October 19, 2013

Facebook eases teens' privacy policies

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"Teens are among the savviest people using social media, and whether it comes to civic engagement, activism, or their thoughts on a new movie, they want to be heard," the company said in a blog post announcing the change.

The changes started rolling out Wednesday afternoon. Teens who opt for the looser privacy standards will be asked twice whether they're sure that they want to share their information with Facebook's widest audience. The notifications will also give teens an option to change the individual post's privacy settings.

Stephen Balkam, chief executive of the Family Online Safety Institute and a member of Facebook's safety advisory board, said that the new privacy settings show that Facebook's attitude toward teen privacy has evolved.

It's "a very positive step, and something we've been deliberating on for quite some time," he said.

Still, the changes don't address questions Facebook has faced over the amount of data it collects from teens on its site. Privacy groups recently sent a letter to the Federal Trade Commission asking the agency to evaluate Facebook's policies, and have the network create separate policies for teenagers on the issue of data collection.

"To parents and teens, Facebook is claiming they are giving them more options to protect their privacy. But in reality, they are making a teen's information more accessible, now that they have the option to post publicly," said Jeff Chester, executive director of the Center for Digital Democracy.

The company has also recently come under criticism for an advertising feature that turns a recommendation made through the social network's "like" button into an advertising endorsement on a friend's Facebook page. Facebook said the changes announced Wednesday won't affect how posts from teens can be used in advertising.

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