April 12, 2018

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Atlantic: The Bargain at the Heart of the Kid Internet


Steven Johnson, reporting for the Atlantic on concerns over online child privacy:

“There’s huge incentives for [kids] and families to lie about age”—as in, confirming that kids are 13 or older when they’re not—“so even the data [about users that companies keep] gets corrupted,” Mimi Ito, a cultural anthropologist and professor at the University of California, Irvine, told me. Kids (and parents) want engaging, cheap, or free videos regardless of how old they are; in practice, Ito said, many children start navigating the web on their own, without parental consent, around age 10.

“If you’re a for-profit that provides free services or content that are of value to kids under 13, then it’s very difficult to be successful and to be coppa-compliant,” Ito said. “And that’s where you’re seeing families routing around the policy as much as the companies are.” It’s simply not realistic to assume kids are truly getting parental consent as they start to form independent identities in early adolescence, she added. Asking for that all the way up to age 16 will hardly improve the odds. And, of course, parents are already some of the biggest violators of their kids’ privacy anyway, posting content and leaving digital footprints well before the age of consent. “Many parents are complicit in this,” Ito said.

Posted by Mizuko Ito at April 12, 2018 12:12 PM

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