Facebook has introduced new privacy measures across its products after concerns surrounding youth safety.
One of the measures is limiting how advertisers reach people under the age of 18 on Instagram. Now, advertisers on Instagram, Facebook and Messenger will only be able to target people under the age of 18 with ads based on their gender, age and location – not on activity on other apps or sites, or on their interests.
In the announcement on the Instagram blog, the company wrote, “we’ve heard from youth advocates that young people may not be well equipped to make these decision [about controlling the ads they see].”
“We agree with them, which is why we’re taking a more precautionary approach in how advertisers can reach young people with ads.”
Now, when users turn 18, they will be notified about the targeting options advertisers can use to reach them, and how users can customise the ads they see.
The other core changes include defaulting users aged under 16 or under 18, depending on country, to private Instagram accounts automatically. Instagram says this is they best way to prevent children “hearing from adults they don’t know, or that they don’t want to hear from”.
If child users want to then make their account public, Instagram will show them a notification extolling the benefits of the private account, but allow them to switch to public.
David Kleeman, senior vice presidents, global trends at Dubit said, “while most platforms have set their minimum age for participation at 13, there’s no on/off switch that makes someone ready to be a fully media-literate participant on that birthday.”
“Defaulting accounts to private for under-16s encourages young people to develop comfort, confidence and capability as digital citizens during their younger years and help them develop habits to last a lifetime.”
The final major change centers on stopping unwanted contact from adults. According to Instagram, they have created new tech which allows them to track down accounts that have shown “potentially suspicious behaviour” and block those accounts from interacting with young people.
They define that behaviour as accounts that have been recently blocked or reported by a young person. When Instagram has identified those adults, they will not see minors accounts in their suggested for you, explore, or reels tabs. They also won’t be able to follow minors if they search from them by username, leave comments on posts, or see comments from minors on other posts.
Currently, Instagram is making these changes in Australia, the US, UK, Japan and France, with plans for expansion.
According to a seperate blog on the Facebook site, the foundation of the approach they are using regarding age is artificial intelligence. While Facebook has a minimum age of 13, users can simply lie when they sign up and make an account.
In the post, they argued that collecting ID – one widely proposed solution – has “significant limitations”.
Alternatively, Facebook says it has created tech that will allow them to estimate someone’s age: namely, if they are above or below 18. It says it is also in discussions with the wider tech industry for ways to “work together to share information in privacy-preserving ways that helps apps establish whether people are over a specific age.”
Finally, Facebook is also trying to disincentivise people under 13 from lying about their age. According to the blog, Facebook is developing experiences specifically designed for under 13 year olds, such as the recently announced ‘Instagram from tweens’.
Josh Machin, head of policy at Facebook Australia said, “we want young people to enjoy using Instagram while making sure we have robust privacy and safety features in place to protect them. That’s why we’re launching these new updates for our global community today, and we’ll continue developing tools that protect teens and our entire community.”
“Privacy is one of our top priorities, and we’ll continue listening to young people, their parents, lawmakers and industry experts to build tools and experiences that safeguard everyone on our platforms.”