Google For Kids: Google To Allow Kids For Google+, Gmail & YouTube
Internet Mughal Google Inc is considering allowing online accounts on Google+, Gmail & YouTube for children under the age of 13 and give their parents control over how the service is used, according to media reports.
Google has been working on a version of YouTube, its video-sharing site, for youngsters and is considering other child-friendly accounts such as its Gmail system, the Financial Times reported, citing a person familiar with the matter.
When children use the internet they’re supposed to play games they read about on the backs of cereal boxes, not check their Gmail accounts and write Facebook statuses.
The internet-at-large can be a scary place for kids, after all, but Google might be aiming to start changing that.
The search company is working to overhaul its online services so that children under the age of 13 can safely use them, according to The Information.
Do kids Google differently?
This isn’t the first time Google has researched how to tailor to kids. A few years ago, Google sponsored a study at the University of Maryland that attempted to figure out how children search for information, and how that differs from experienced adult Googlers.
Kids trying to find information for school or other interests can sometimes run into hurdles, and Google wanted to figure out how to make its search engine more accessible.
Why Google cares :- Google’s business relies on collecting as much user data as it possibly can, and to that end, it’d like to get a head start. The challenge is ensuring their safety in accordance with federal laws, since the Internet can be a scary place at times.
It also goes beyond the kids themselves. By offering stringent control mechanisms, Google can also appeal to parents and ideally increase their own usage of Google’s services as well. Google wants to keep its services within the family.
Currently users of services like Google+ and Gmail must be over 13-years-old to sign up or have permission from their parents, though these restrictions are easy to get around.
Instead of pretending kids aren’t using Google services, the company apparently wants to enable parents to create a safe environment for their offspring.
This means tools that will reportedly include a dashboard parents can use to oversee their kids’ online activity, a YouTube site just for kids, and new rules requiring users who sign up for Google accounts on Android devices to share their ages, as they already have to do on PCs.
The Verge compares these rumours to a Google video from 2011 called “Dear Sophie,” in which a father creates a Gmail account for his newborn daughter and emails her photos and other content as a sort of web-housed, interactive scrapbook that she’ll ostensibly read when she’s old enough to have her own Gmail account.
Google would be wise to turn something like that into an actual product — and the company is likely greedily eyeing the data it will be able to collect from users as they age on the internet.
To comply with the federal Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act, Google, Facebook and many other services officially ban children under 13. This well-meaning law that was passed in 1998, requires services to obtain “verifiable parental consent” before a child can provide any personally identifiable information (PII).
Last year the Federal Trade Commission, which oversees COPPA, issued new rules that extend the definition of PII to include IP address, location, photographs and other information not anticipated when COPPA was first enacted. The new rule also covers plug-ins and ad networks, if they have a reason to believe that the child is under 13.
It also covers “persistent identifiers” that recognize a user over a period of time which are used for purposes other than “support for internal operations.” This includes tracking cookies that are capable of not only delivering advertising within a site but can also be used to track people across sites to deliver targeted information.
One simple way to get around COPPA is to not ask a person’s age. Unless the site has an abundance of content clearly aimed at kids (like a cartoon network), it is presumed to be a general interest site. As as long the site has no knowledge of the person’s age, it is welcome to collect information.
Instagram, for example, doesn’t ask a person’s date of birth so it has no way of knowing age, even though its terms of service require the user to be at least 13.
Like Google, Instagram’s owner, Facebook, does ask for date of birth when you sign up for its flagship service and bans anyone who is under 13. Google and Facebook even put cookies on machines in an effort to prevent kids who were rejected from trying again with a fake birth date.
We don’t have actual numbers when it comes to Google, but it’s pretty obvious that a lot of kids under 13 are using YouTube not just to watch videos but to contribute their own content. Gmail — another service that requires a Google account — is also popular among kids as it should be. Kids need email too.
How Google and Facebook could allow kids under 13:- It is possible for Google, Facebook and other services to allow kids under 13 without violating or modifying COPPA, but it would require an expensive and cumbersome process of obtaining verifiable parental consent. Google could set up its own mechanism to get this consent or work with one of several “safe harbor” companies or organizations such as IKeepSafe, Children’s Advertising Review Unit, Privo and others.
This means giving “ parents the choice of consenting to the operator’s collection and internal use of a child’s information, but prohibiting the operator from disclosing that information to third parties (unless disclosure is integral to the site or service, in which case, this must be made clear to parents.)” It also requires the service to provide parents access to their child’s personal information to review and/or have the information deleted and to “retain personal information collected online from a child for only as long as is necessary to fulfill the purpose for which it was collected.”
What should happen:- Ideally, I would like to see COPPA revised so compliance is a bit less cumbersome. One reason is because it is hard for companies to reach some parents, including those who may not speak English or whose immigration status makes them less likely to want to deal with federal authorities.
There are also cases where children’s rights may be at risk because their parents are uncomfortable with their sexual orientation, religion or politics. While it’s important to protect parental rights, we also need to consider children’s rights. While it’s true that COPPA applies only to kids under 13, there are cases of pre-teen children or are legitimately exploring important issues that could make their parents uncomfortable.