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Be Careful What You "Like" on Facebook

What the social network's privacy policy changes would mean for your teen (and you).

If you're on Facebook, you may have received a message recently alerting you to changes in its privacy policy. Maybe you don't even pay attention to these alerts anymore because Facebook seems to be constantly changing its privacy policy. Thankfully, some folks and privacy advocates have read the fine print and raised a ruckus, and Facebook has delayed the proposed changes for now.

The key issue in the new proposed policy is the assumption that users give Facebook the right to use their name, image, and personal information in advertising and sponsored content. Where Facebook's previous privacy policy allowed users to control (through privacy settings) how their name and picture is associated with commercial content, the new proposal states that users automatically permit Facebook to use their personal information for commercial purposes. And Facebook doesn't want to give users any meaningful choice other than take it or leave it -- there's no opt out. If you're on Facebook, the company says you agree that it can use your information both to deliver targeted ads to you and to advertise to others.

Especially troubling is a provision stating that Facebook automatically assumes that the parents of teenagers on Facebook have given permission to use their teens' names and images in advertising. The proposed policy states, "If you are under the age of 18, you represent that at least one of your parents or legal guardians has also agreed to the terms of this section (and the use of your name, profile picture, content and information) on your behalf."

If, for example, a teen Likes the MTV Video Music Awards, his/her face can be connected with ads related to those words and topics that populate other users' feeds. This type of sponsored story is especially attractive to advertisers -- and thus lucrative for Facebook -- because it reads as a friend's trusted endorsement rather than an ad.

We know teens are especially vulnerable to peer pressure, that they are wont to follow each other, to Like what their friends Like. We know that the Like button elicits a particularly powerful social-emotional response in teens. Facebook wants to harness this vulnerability for commercial gain, using teens to sell to teens without giving them -- or their parents -- an option.

Every little bit of data contained in the touch of a keystroke or the press of a Like button contributes to the opus of a kid's life -- often revealing details and drawing conclusions about them that could have ramifications for years to come. Facebook's proposed privacy changes would drastically increase our teens' digital footprint and exposure online, all for Facebook's commercial gain.

It's not too late to voice your concerns. Register your opposition here.

Jim Steyer

Jim is Common Sense Media's CEO and founder -- read all about him here.