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Volume 24 No. 137
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SMT Conference: Facebook Exec Discusses The Company's Privacy, Protection Issues

During the final one-on-one interview at the '12 Covington & Burling Sports Media & Technology conference, Facebook Chief Privacy Officer Erin Egan weighed in on global privacy issues, data security practices and enforcement. She also gave insights on the social media scene moving forward.

NO FAKE: Egan discussed fake accounts, which are a violation of Facebook's terms. The fake accounts come at particularly high rates among high-profile athletes and coaches. Egan: “It’s a violation of our terms. We think an underlying core principle on Facebook is identity. We think real identity breeds responsibility. People are more likely to be responsible when they are accountable and their authentic selves. That real identity culture is a fundamental principle of ours. If we learn of a fake account, we take it down. We have a Users Operation team that addresses these issues. We also have technological mechanisms with which we can detect fake accounts. That’s a key effort that we have underway."

AT THE GAME: Egan discussed improving the ability to be able share things while in venues and during other live events. Egan: “We look at it in the sense of ‘this is a tremendous opportunity for brands and how can they do this in a privacy-protective way.’ But what does that mean? For us, it goes back to transparency and what controls do users have. So when it comes to sharing things, the key thing we’ve done is brought control with respect to every item that people share. We’re trying to mirror the web experience on mobile. So every time someone shares, they have control over that audience. … That control is something we’re pushing internationally as part of our public policy.”

: As teams seek to increase their younger fan bases, companies like Facebook must balance business with protection of minors. Egan: “Today, on Facebook, we only allow people over the age of 13. We ask their age when they come to our site. If they don’t indicate they are of age, we block that as part of best practices that the Federal Trade Commission has put out there for kids. We do have a different experience for that 13-17 year-old environment. We have a safety advisory board, with leading experts in the safety space. They have sort of been walking with us through all the different issues that come with minors. Whether it be bullying or other issues. We’ve been really proactive in this space. From a privacy perspective in this space, it isn’t a different experience. So largely, it’s a friends of friends experience. If you indicate you’re 15, you can’t share something publicly. We limit what can be shared in that case to the friends of friends experience. … Throughout the site, we have different protections for minors than we have for adults. And there has been a lot of pressure on us opening up to the under-13 environment. Studies have shown there are people on Facebook under 13. Parents are helping them get on Facebook and will condone the lying about the age. They see Facebook as a great way to keep in touch with grandparents and so forth. We’re thinking carefully about it. But our service today is not designed for that under 13 group.”