Google is reportedly considering a new service which will allow children to have their own accounts, despite being under 13 years of age.
Currently, children under 13 are not allowed their own Google+ accounts, according to the California-based firm's Terms of Service. Granting children access to online services can be a minefield, as without proper parental supervision, children could be exposed to inappropriate material -- and then service providers face irate parents, potential lawsuits and waving of the pitchfork. Unsurprisingly, most firms do not allow children official access, which grants them the legal loophole required should -- and when -- kids sign up for Google+, Facebook and Twitter by faking their age anyway.
We all know it happens, and parents often get in on the act -- signing up their kids on request or sometimes even at birth, giving them a Web presence even before they can speak -- but Terms of Service provide protection for the companies involved.
Should a child try to sign up for Google+ and reveals their actual age during the sign up process, Google suspends the account for 30 days. However, according to The Information (subscription required), Google has been overhauling its Web services to allow children to safely use a range of facilities. Features that Google is musing over reportedly include a dashboard for parents which allows them to oversee a child's activities, a family-friendly version of YouTube, and a requirement for those signing up through mobile devices to reveal their age.
The move would propel Google into a complex minefield, mainly due to the Federal Trade Commission's Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA), which imposes strict regulations on data collected through children. COPPA requires parental consent for firms to collect child-based data, and there are stringent rules in how this data can be used for advertizing purposes. However, in the same manner that Terms of Service grant protection, firms are not liable for prosecution if an account holder lies about their age.
According to a person familiar with the matter who spoke to the Wall Street Journal, parents are already trying to sign up their children to services, and Google wants to make the process easier while remaining compliant with such regulations.