Belfast’s High Court orders Facebook to disclose any data it might have on how many underage users it has in Northern Ireland
The High Court in Belfast has ordered Facebook to disclose any records it might have on the number of underage account holders in Northern Ireland as part of a case involving a schoolgirl who contacted men via the social network.
Facebook is being sued by the girl’s father, who alleges negligence and breach of her right to privacy. From the age of 11, the girl created four accounts on the site, using them to publish suggestive photos and to contact men, who as a result sent her text messages containing sexual content.
Facebook’s rules prohibit anyone under the age of 13 from being a member, and the girl’s accounts were deactivated when the company received reports. The father of the girl, who is now under a care order, claims that the site’s registration process makes it too easy for underage users to create accounts.
As part of the case, attempts were made to uncover details on the number of underage users on the social network, and the judge’s ruling ordered discovery to be made on any documentation containing information on the use of the company’s service by children under 13 in Northern Ireland or in Britain as a whole between 2011 and 2014.
“If the defendants do have them, they should be discovered,” the judge said, according to the BBC.
The judge also ruled that Facebook should provide details on the number of account holders altogether in Northern Ireland, a figure the judge said was relevant to assessing the size of the task of “taking steps to address the mischief of underage children registering”.
The judge blocked several other requests for information from the company and the court heard that Facebook does not retain data on reports of underage users for more than six months.
However, a lawyer for the girl’s father cited a 2011 statement by Facebook’s chief privacy advisor in which he allegedly claimed that 20,000 underage users were removed from the site each day, something presented as evidence that the company must have some data on the matter. The judge recognised that there would appear to be a “factual standoff” on the issue.
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