On April 10, 2018, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg testified at a hearing before the Senate Commerce and Judiciary Committees. Senator Richard Durbin of Illinois asked him a series of questions related to the letter sent to Facebook by CCFC, signed by 117 child development experts and advocates, asking Facebook to scrap the Messenger Kids app for young kids. Here is their exchange:
SENATOR DURBIN: You have recently announced something that is called Messenger Kids. Facebook created an app allowing kids between the ages of 6 and 12 to send video and text messages through Facebook as an extension of their parent’s account. You have cartoonlike stickers, and other features designed to appeal to little kids — first-graders, kindergartners.
On January 30th, the Campaign for Commercial-Free Childhood and lots of other child development organizations warned Facebook. They pointed to a wealth of research demonstrating that excessive use of digital devices and social media is harmful to kids, and argued that young children simply are not ready to handle social media accounts at age 6. In addition, there are concerns about data that is being gathered about these kids.
Now, there are certain limits of the law, we know. There’s a Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act. What guarantees can you give us that no data from Messenger Kids is or will be collected or shared with those that might violate that law?
MARK ZUCKERBERG: All right, senator, so a number of things I think are — are important here. The background on Messenger Kids is, we heard feedback from thousands of parents that they want to be able to stay in touch with their kids and call them, use apps like FaceTime when they’re working late or not around and want to communicate with their kids, but they want to have complete control over that. So I think we can all agree that if you — when your kid is 6 or 7, even if they have access to a phone, you want to be able to control everyone who they can contact. And there wasn’t an app out there that did that. So we built this service to do that.
The app collects a minimum amount of information that is necessary to operate the service. So, for example, the messages that people send is something that we collect in order to operate the service, but in general, that data is not going to be shared with third parties, it is not connected to the broader Facebook experience…
DURBIN: Excuse me, as a lawyer, I picked up on that word “in general,” the phrase “in general.” It seems to suggest that in some circumstances it will be shared with third parties.
ZUCKERBERG: No. It will not.
DURBIN: All right. Would you be open to the idea that someone having reached adult age, having grown up with Messenger Kids, should be allowed to delete the data that you’ve collected?
ZUCKERBERG: Senator, yes. As a matter of fact, when you become 13, which is our legal limit — our limit — we don’t allow people under the age of 13 to use Facebook — you don’t automatically go from having a Messenger Kids account to a Facebook account. You have to start over and get a Facebook account.
So I think it’s a good idea to consider making sure that all that information is deleted, and in general, people are going to be starting over when get their — their Facebook or other accounts.
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