Advertisers Jonesing for ‘Baby Facebook'

News that Facebook could be working on a 'Baby Facebook' for children under 13 to access with their parents' accounts caused criticism and outrage, but advertisers are likely eagerly awaiting their new young customers.

Rep. Ed Markey, D-Mass. and Rep. Joe Barton, R-Texas, both wrote a letter to Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg asking pointed questions about the safety and privacy of users under 12, especially since the possible change could conflict with the federal Children's Online Privacy Policy Act. The law specifically protects those under 13 from having personal information collected without parental consent. From the letter:

“We acknowledge that more and more children under the age of 13 are using Facebook and this is a problem that needs to be addressed. While Facebook provides important communication and entertainment opportunities, we strongly believe that children and their personal information should not be viewed as a source of revenue.”

The letter then asks Facebook 14 detailed questions on topics such as what information will be collected, who will be the primary user on an account and how the social network plans to comply with COPPA. Analysts predict that if the age ban is lifted, advertisers will create personalized ads for younger users.

Susan Bartell, a psychologist, also expressed concern about the possible new Facebook policy. "My very first instinct was that it's Facebook trying to capture another audience to market to," she told USA Today.

John Steyer, founder of Common Sense Media, an advocacy group for kids and the media, also expressed skepticism. "Big tobacco was very, very smart in trying to create brand loyalty starting at the very earliest possible age," he said. "That's why they created Joe Camel. We shouldn't be trying to build brand loyalty among 7-, 8- and 9-year-olds."

While it's obvious advertisers are curious about this new online demographic on Facebook, the social network is only experimenting with possibly connecting children's accounts to their parents' accounts. There's no definite plan or structure in place to make it a reality -- yet.

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