The Circuit: Facebook and younger users, ‘Zero Day’ series, Google acquires Meebo

Facebook and younger users: Facebook may be planning to build technology that would allow children under 13 to register for the site and give their parents some control over how their kids may use it.

It’s not yet clear whether Facebook would put an under-13 network out there, as first reported in the Wall Street Journal. The Journal noted that Facebook often works to develop technology that it does not release to the public.

In a statement, Facebook said that it has been working to address the problem of children’s online safety and privacy.

“Many recent reports have highlighted just how difficult it is to enforce age restrictions on the Internet, especially when parents want their children to access online content and services,” the company said. “We are in continuous dialogue with stakeholders, regulators and other policymakers about how best to help parents keep their kids safe in an evolving online environment.”

‘Zero Day’ series: In the second installment of The Washington Post’s Zero Day series, reporter Robert O’Harrow explores the holes in cyberspace as exposed by the cyber search engine Shodan.

Hackers have shown how easy it is to break into the nation’s critical infrastructure, the report said, partially as a mark of personal pride and to wake the government to the fact that there are serious vulnerabilities.

One hacker took just 10 minutes to carry out and document an intrusion of a water-pump system in South Houston, Tex., to show how easy it would be.

“I didn’t actually know what the machine was going to control when I started, but I logged in, and well, saw the stuff I took screen shots of,” the hacker told The Post in an e-mail exchange. “I was just amazed.”

Google acquiring Meebo: Meebo, the company that started as a chat service, is being acquired by Google. The smaller company announced that acquisition on its company blog, saying that its developers are “super jazzed to roll up our sleeves and get cracking on even bigger and better ways to help users and website owners alike.”

The service had evolved over the years into an advertising business though use of the Meebo bar, which made it easy to share content with social networks as well as incorporate multimedia and other elements into Web sites.

Facebook, Yahoo reportedly close to settlement:Yahoo and Facebook are reportedly well on their way to settling their patent disputes. According to a report from All Things Digital, the two technology giants are in advanced stages of talks to stop the lawsuits and counterclaims.

The deal, according to the unnamed “multiple sources close to the situation” cited in the report, may include a cross-licensing deal. There’s also the possibility that Facebook could buy some patents from Yahoo, but likely not in the same price ballpark as its $550 million deal with Microsoft for AOL patents.

Yahoo and Facebook both declined to comment on the report.

Cybersecurity bill: Rep. Jim Langevin (D-R.I.) said Monday that time is of the essence when it comes to passing a bill on cybersecurity.

In remarks to the West Point Cyber Conference, the congressman said that “time is running out” to pass a bill, though he remains hopeful that the Senate will reach a compromise on legislation.

The debate over what is an appropriate amount or how far cybersecurity mandates from the government should go has “become one of the primary stumbling blocks in both the House and Senate,” Langevin said.

“The consequences of inaction are perilously high,” he said.

Hayley Tsukayama covers consumer technology for The Washington Post.
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