August 20, 2014
In what could potentially become a controversial move, Google has plans to offer accounts to children under the age of 13 for the first time. Google services such as Gmail and YouTube do not currently offer accounts to kids (although kids can log on anonymously or pose as adults). Now Google is planning a new approach that encourages parents to open accounts for their children, and in the process control how they use Google services and the information that is collected about their kids.
Google was working on a kids’ version of YouTube earlier this year that would reportedly allow parents to control content. The version was optimized for tablets since kids are increasingly using mobile devices.
“The contemplated features include a dashboard for parents to oversee their kids’ activities, a child-safe version of YouTube and requiring people who sign up for a Google account on devices powered by Google’s Android software to share their age,” explains The Information. “Google requires people to share their age when they sign up for Google services on personal computers.”
“Google and most other Internet companies tread carefully because of the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act, or COPPA,” reports The Wall Street Journal. “The law imposes strict limits on how information about children under 13 is collected; it requires parents’ consent and tightly controls how that data can be used for advertising.”
Since some parents are already attempting to sign up their children for online services, Google is planning to make its services compliant with the current rules. However, some privacy advocates are expressing concern.
“Unless Google does this right it will threaten the privacy of millions of children and deny parents the ability to make meaningful decisions about who can collect information on their kids,” said Jeff Chester, executive director of the Center for Digital Democracy.