Parents, lies, and Facebook: why give out your real information?


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facebookSome people seem surprised that millions of parents are lying to Facebook and violating its Terms of Use to create profiles for their under-13 children.

We think it’s natural.

We think children and parents should be able to lie more online.  We should be able to sign up for websites with fake names, have emails sent to fake addresses, and give out fake phone numbers.  Why?  Because it protects our real information, our real selves.

We even think this is good parenting.

Using Facebook and other online sharing services is a big part of all of our digital lives…

… but telling Facebook lots of real, personal information about ourselves shouldn’t have to be.

Even in our modern times where 2-year-olds use iPads, kids 12 and younger are getting help from their parents to set up Facebook accounts: a Microsoft survey found that nearly 8 out of 10 parents had helped their children under 12 to join the Facebook party.

Of course, Facebook only allows only children 13 and over to create accounts, so parents are breaking “Facebook law” by lying to create these profiles.

Did you know:  if you don’t give Facebook your real name and birth date, you’re also violating Facebook’s rules?

Facebook sometimes asks users to prove they are who they say they are by providing a copy of government-issued identification.

We don’t want to pick too much on Facebook’s Terms of Use:  Google+ recently released the same kind of “real names” policy and is busy extending Google+’s grip.  This insistence on using your real name has fueled a big debate, called the nymwars, about whether we have a right to choose how we identify ourselves online.  Privacy advocate Danah Boyd wrote a great piece arguing that real names policies are abusive, and tech journalist Violet Blue was kicked off Google+ because they thought her name was fake–it’s her legal name.  Although ex-Google CEO Eric Schmidt defended the policy, it looks like Google lost the nymwars:  they recently announced that they’re going to let people use pseudonyms.

Bottom line?

Use your favorite services, pay them if you love them, click on ads if you’re interested, but don’t tell them too much about your personal life.   Your home address, your exact birthdate, and your email can all be used to identify you.  Corporations, identity thieves, and scammers can link your offline life, including your credit scores and buying habits, to your digital trails.  None of us want to worry about that:  not today, and definitely not in the future.

If you regain control over who can access your personal info, you can keep using the web the way you want to without worrying.  You should decide who’s allowed to collect information about you as you surf.

That’s what our tools do.   That’s why we make them.  Add them to your browser now, before you click on that next link or register for that next account, and browse stress-free.

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