Facebook: elders shall not pass!

Written on 01/16/2008 by Jactari

As one reads the terms of use of the Facebook services – but who doesn't? – one can see that the user pledges(1) to provide accurate, current and complete personal information, as well as maintaining and updating this information in order to keep it accurate, current and complete.

This sole pledge is really significant, and if one provides false information, or if one forgets to update the personal information given, one unilaterally breaks the agreement taken between the user and the Facebook company.

Thus far, such an approach is hardly surprising, from a company which is “surfing on the Web 2.0 wave” and generating huge profit by the means of “community” services, exploitation of individual's personal – and possibly private – information, and exploitation of gregarious instinct(2) and socializing tendency of this same individual.

Date of birth field in Facebook registering formHowever, and there is the rub, if one wants – as an obedient and accommodating user – to provide the requested informations, and if one is no spring chicken, one meets an unescapable hindrance: the year of birth field in the registering form only proposes years running from 1910 to 2006(3).

Facebook error message requesting to enter our real birth datePut this together with the fact that, when one enters a birth date in the first days of the first months of the first years of the proposed list (1910, 1911…), one gets a potentially comical error message demanding to enter the “real” birth date, and adding that it is eventually possible to restrict who can see this information among Facebook users(4). These messages imply unmistakably that the user tried to dupe Facebook by entering a false birth date.

In the light of these elements, it turns out that the managers or developers of Facebook consider impossible that a person aged of 97 years or above took an interest in their services. (Be it reminded that the Facebook founder and chief executive officer is 23 years old.) It appears also that the persons aged of 97 years and above are – because of the form restrictions and because of the contractual commitments – banned from Facebook, in other words, the managers refuse to provide their services to these persons.

How does one consider, again, a merchant who refuses to provide services to a customer, basing this decision on arbitrary criterions – irrelevant to provided services – like age, skin color, facies, and so on?

All those who have an aunt or a grandfather chating with them on MSN – or any other instant messaging service – know for sure that such a restriction stands far from being trivial or comical, and that such a restriction is more tantamount to unjustified discrimination, or even insult, towards a part of the population.

Is it useful to precise that Sœur Emmanuelle is deprived of joining this network, while, in the same time, some people known more for their frauds than for their charitable efforts – but younger – are very welcome on the same network?

It is worth noting, also, that the number of centenarians is continuously increasing, that this population is worth approximately 55,000 individuals in the United States of America, 30,000 in Japan, and 20,000 in France. Logically, and according to demography, the population of the individuals aged of 97 years and above is far more considerable, and absolutely not negligible.

Despite all this, Facebook proscribe, de facto, the elders from using its services, but this is one of its least flaws.

  1. Excerpt from the Terms of Use of Facebook :
    Registration Data; Account Security

    In consideration of your use of the Site, you agree to (a) provide accurate, current and complete information about you as may be prompted by any registration forms on the Site ("Registration Data"); (b) maintain the security of your password and identification; (c) maintain and promptly update the Registration Data, and any other information you provide to Company, to keep it accurate, current and complete; and (d) be fully responsible for all use of your account and for any actions that take place using your account.
  2. The first motivation to account creation on Facebook relies on encouragement for users upon inviting friends, and on enticing non-users to register themselves if they want to view and share the informations of their friends already registered.

  3. By the way, the last years proposed in the form are only decoration, indeed, if one gives a birth date indicating an age of less than 13 years, one is rejected from registration (“you are ineligible”), and a cookie (named “tooyoung”) is placed on the computer for an unspecified duration, preventing any further registration.
  4. Nothing is mentioned about the judiciousness of, basically, giving such an information to a company like Facebook, still, there is largely enough food for thought.
version française : Facebook, un service interdit aux vieux ! [fr]