Bulgarian youth ask Facebook to collect less private data

  • Awareness
  • 04/05/2017
  • Bulgarian Safer Internet Centre

Young people in Bulgaria recently asked Facebook to collect less personal data from users. The teens also proposed that Facebook, the most popular social media platform in Bulgaria, think about minimising the scope of friends' search.

About 30 young people from several schools participated in a discussion organised by the Bulgarian Safer Internet Centre (SIC) and Facebook which took place in Sofia, Bulgaria on 25 March 2017. The discussion followed a regional meeting between Facebook and civil society organisations from 10 countries in south-eastern Europe which had taken place the previous day, thanks to a long-term partnership between the Bulgarian SIC and the social media service provider.

During the meeting, Facebook representatives Julie de Bailliencourt, Safety Policy Manager for Europe, Middle East and Africa and Gabriella Cseh, Head of Public Policy for Central and Eastern Europe, introduced the young people to Facebook's safety policy and tools. The teenagers then worked in groups with the objective of sharing their positive and negative experiences when using the social network. The teens reported the advantages of using Facebook as providing easy and fast communication with friends and relatives, fast sharing of information, and entertainment and learning opportunities. The negatives which the teenagers identified included fake news, spam massages and unwanted ads, notifications from unknown people, the amount of personal data gathered, and fewer account management options on mobile devices. The Facebook representatives answered the teenagers' questions and recommended that young people register with their real age in order to be able to use the provided protection tools and filters for minors. They also advised that children refrain from sharing their personal data publicly, and not to hesitate to report inappropriate content and behaviour on the platform. The company's policy for content removal was also discussed with the teenagers. Julie and Gabriella promised that Facebook will look carefully at any additional feedback which the young people provide through the Bulgarian Safer Internet Centre.

The idea for the Facebook youth event was inspired by the key findings from a national representative survey, conducted by the Bulgarian Safer Internet Centre. The survey revealed that 86.6 per cent of Bulgarian children have their own profiles in social media. Three out of four Bulgarian children aged 9-11 have their own accounts on a social network which means that the requirement for everyone to be at least 13 years old before they can create an account is frequently violated. Typically a false age of more than 18 is declared by children, however this deprives them of the specific protections provided for consumers of between 13 and 18 years of age.

Facebook is the most popular social media among Bulgarian children – 71.7 per cent of them often use it. The percentage of children who have declared a false age has increased fourfold since 2010 – from 10 per cent to 40 per cent. The survey also revealed that 33.8 per cent of children's Facebook accounts are public, so everybody can access the profile content. This means that children's personal data is not secured and young people are at risk of unwanted contacts. Four out of ten children aged 12-14 have public accounts, while 33 per cent of all children accept friend requests from unknown people.

A report on online risks and harms to Bulgarian children presenting the findings from the national representative study can be found here.

Find out more about the work of the Bulgarian Safer Internet Centre, including its awareness raising, helpline, hotline and youth participation services.

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