Facebook Used Games to Make Money off Kids Without Their Parents’ Permission, Unsealed Documents Show
Facebook knew children were spending money in games without getting parental consent and the company did nothing about it, according to newly unsealed court documents from a 2012 lawsuit.
More than 100 pages of private Facebook documents were released following a request by the Center for Investigative Reporting and shed light on Facebook’s tactics. For years, the company was aware that children were playing games on accounts tied to a credit card and were, in some cases, unknowingly racking up thousands of dollars in bills by simply clicking within a game to get new abilities or upgrades.
The company ignored a plan developed by an employee in 2011 that would curb children from spending money without a parent’s permission.
The more games children played, the more Facebook’s revenue grew. When angry parents saw their credit card bills and in some cases reported not even receiving a receipt, they found it difficult to get their money back from Facebook, so they turned to credit card companies, the Better Business Bureau and finally, a lawsuit.
While the documents are old, they shed light on Facebook’s past business practices as the company continues to be under immense scrutiny for its numerous privacy breaches. Facebook changed its refund policy around games in 2016 and now has a detailed site about how to handle payment disputes with developers. Additionally, a Parents Portal offers tips for parents about how their kids can stay safe online.
“Facebook works with parents and experts to offer tools for families navigating Facebook and the web. As part of that work, we routinely examine our own practices, and in 2016 agreed to update our terms and provide dedicated resources for refund requests related to purchases made by minors on Facebook,” the company said in a statement.