Kids who want to use Google services may no longer have to lie about how old they are. The largest search engine in the world is reportedly planning to add specific accounts for users under the age of 13. Currently, it does not allow users to sign up unless they are at least 13 years old. That’s because the Federal Trade Commission has strict privacy rules for children, requiring parents to provide verifiable consent in the form of a phone call, printed consent form, or a credit card transaction.
The company’s new effort is somewhat driven by parents who are already trying to sign their kids up to a Gmail account. Google wants to make the procedure easier and compliant with the rules.
Earlier this year, Google announced that it was developing a child version of its online video site YouTube, suited for tablet computers that would let parents control content.
This is stirring up concerns among privacy advocates. They argue that if Google does not do it right these changes could threaten the privacy of millions of children and deny parents the ability to make meaningful decisions about who can collect information about their children.
The Centre for Digital Democracy, one of the privacy groups concerned about the Google’s plans, is even huddling to create an action plan to monitor how Google rolls out its services for children. They want to make sure the system provides parents enough control over the information that is transmitted.
It goes without saying – it is important for Google, or any other company that directly targets products at children for that matters, ensures that privacy safeguards are automatically in place. They should also ensure that both parents and their children are knowledgeable about the information that will be collected, analyzed and used. Failure to do so could jeopardize losing both the parents and children as future users of these products.
The program is still unconfirmed and Google has a strict policy of not commenting on rumors.
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