Facebook is building an instagram app for kids under 13, led by the former head of YouTube Kids

Instagram app
The log of the Instagram app on a smartphone.

  • Facebook is building an Instagram app for kids under 13, BuzzFeed News reported Thursday.
  • The project will be led by Pavni Diwanji, who previously led YouTube’s kid-focused products.
  • Facebook has faced backlash over the safety and mental health impacts of such products.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Facebook-owned Instagram is planning to build a version of its app targeted specifically toward children under 13, BuzzFeed News reported Thursday.

“We have identified youth work as a priority for Instagram and have added it to our H1 priority list, Instagram vice president of product Vishal Shah said in an internal memo, according to BuzzFeed.

“We will be building a new youth pillar within the Community Product Group to focus on two things: (a) accelerating our integrity and privacy work to ensure the safest possible experience for teens and (b) building a version of Instagram that allows people under the age of 13 to safely use Instagram for the first time,” Shah added, according to BuzzFeed.

Currently, Instagram policies prohibit children under 13 from using the app, though a parent or manager can manage an account on their behalf.

BuzzFeed News reported the kid-focused version will be overseen by Instagram head Adam Mosseri and led by Pavni Diwanji, a Facebook vice president who previously led YouTube Kids and other child-focused products at the Google subsidiary.

“Increasingly kids are asking their parents if they can join apps that help them keep up with their friends. Right now there aren’t many options for parents, so we’re working on building additional products – like we did with Messenger Kids – that are suitable for kids, managed by parents,” a Facebook spokesperson told Insider in a statement.

We’re exploring bringing a parent-controlled experience to Instagram to help kids keep up with their friends, discover new hobbies and interests, and more,” they added.

But Facebook’s push to draw young children into its app ecosystem is likely to draw scrutiny given its track record on privacy, preventing abuse and harassment, and scandals involving its Messenger Kids app.

BuzzFeed’s report comes just days after Instagram published a blog post introducing new child safety features, including AI-powered tools to guess users’ ages – despite acknowledging “verifying people’s age online is complex and something many in our industry are grappling with.”

Facebook’s stepped-up efforts to protect children follow years of reports that rampant bullying, child sex abuse material, and child exploitation exists on its platform, and some research suggests the problem may be getting worse.

A November report by the UK-based National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children found Instagram was the most widely used platform in child grooming cases in the early months of the pandemic, being used in 37% of cases, up from 29% in the past three years. The US-based National Center for Missing and Exploited Children said in 2020, Facebook and its family of apps reported 20.3 million instances of possible child abuse on their platforms.

Facebook said in January that its AI systems “proactively” catch 99% of child exploitation content before it’s reported by users or researchers – however, that number doesn’t account for content that goes unreported.

In 2019, a privacy flaw in Facebook’s Messenger Kids app also allowed thousands of children to enter chats with strangers, and Facebook secretly built an app that paid teens to give it extensive access to their phone and internet usage data, before Apple forced Facebook to shutter the app for violating its App Store policies.

That same year, the Federal Trade Commission hit Facebook with a $5 billion fine over privacy violations – though privacy advocates have argued that it did little to prevent Facebook from scooping up user data.

Other tech platforms have had missteps as well when it comes to protecting children’s privacy online. Google reached a $170 million settlement with the FTC to settle allegations that YouTube illegally collected kids’ data without their parents consent. In September, a British researcher filed a $3 billion lawsuit against YouTube, alleging it illegally showed “addictive” content at children under the age of 13 and harvested their data for targeted ads.

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What is Global Privacy Control? How organizations are teaming up to prevent your personal data from being sold

Hand typing on computer
The Global Privacy Control feature is a setting in some browsers and plug-ins designed to protect you against websites selling your personal data.

  • The Global Privacy Control (GPC) feature is a setting in some browsers and plug-ins to tell websites not to sell your personal data.
  • GPC is found in a small number of browsers and plug-ins, and compliance is optional.
  • The GPC is being developed by a consortium of tech companies and publishers.
  • Visit Insider’s Tech Reference library for more stories.

The Global Privacy Control (GPC) is a technology initiative being spearheaded by a group of publishers and technology companies to create a global setting in web browsers that allows users to control their privacy online. This means you should be able to set the GPC control in your browser to prevent websites from selling your personal data.

Why the Global Privacy Control feature is important

In recent years, there has been increasing scrutiny on privacy rights online. In 2018, the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) went into effect, limiting the data websites can collect on EU citizens. The California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) is a similar legislative measure that went into effect in California in 2020.

While there is enhanced interest in online privacy and some governments are taking steps to limit what websites can do with user data, there is no global way for users to opt-out of having their personal information sold or used in ways they don’t approve of. Every website that needs to comply with legal mandates – or simply implement more progressive privacy policies – must implement an opt-out mechanism on its own.

The GPC is built to inform websites not to sell user data. This is different from other privacy tools that might limit tracking but might still allow user data to be sold (or to sell that data itself).

What is the Global Privacy Control feature 1
Some organizations offer the ability for users to opt-in to their privacy control feature.

When fully implemented, the GPC may allow you to opt-out of having your personal data sold by the websites you visit.

Status of the Global Privacy Control feature

Buoyed by these new laws, the GPC is intended to be a single, global setting users can activate in their web browser that signals to all websites the user’s intention about their data privacy.

Currently, the specification is being written by an informal consortium of more than a dozen organizations including the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), the National Science Foundation, The New York Times, Mozilla, The Washington Post, and Consumer Reports.

The specification that will govern how the GPC will be implemented and behave is still in development, though in principle, it simply allows a website to read a value (such as Sec-GPC-field-value = “1”) to know that the user has chosen to opt-out of having their data sold.

A number of web browsers and browser extensions have implemented the GPC in its draft form. Moreover, adoption of the GPC privacy settings carries no legal weight. If you use a browser or extension with the GPC feature, at this time no websites are obligated to respect its setting – compliance with the GPC is voluntary.

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