Parents and teenagers: Facebook recently announced changes to its long-standing privacy policy for 13- to 17-year-olds.

In the past, teen users did not have the option to share comments and photos more broadly than to friends of friends. This eased parents' fears by keeping teen information and pictures somewhat more private, but it also kept advertisers from accessing teen status updates and using them in their campaigns.

The new, relaxed privacy policy will allow teens to share photos, updates and comments with the general public on Facebook. If this setting is chosen, all of a teen's status updates, videos, posts and pictures may be seen by strangers — including those collecting data for advertisers and marketing companies. Strangers will also be able to "follow" teens they don't know and keep track of their public posts in the main news feed.

The changes will take effect immediately, according to an announcement in Facebook's "Newsroom." The press release explains that the company made the change to allow its "savviest users" to reach a broader audience with their posts:

Teens are among the savviest people using social media, and whether it comes to civic engagement, activism, or their thoughts on a new movie, they want to be heard. So, starting today, people aged 13 through 17 will also have the choice to post publicly on Facebook.
But it's pretty clear that the main reason for the change is to help Facebook compete for advertising dollars against other social networks such as Twitter, Instagram, and Tumblr that do not restrict posts for teens.

The good news is that the initial privacy setting for new teen users will default to "Friends Only," so teens will have to manually change the setting if they want their information shared.

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Facebook loosens privacy settings for teens
Parents and teens should be on the lookout for this new privacy setting that affects 13- to 17-year-olds.