11 June 2010

US - How COPPA Fails Parents, Educators, Youth

(danah boyd)
Ever wonder why youth have to be over 13 to create an account on Facebook or Gmail or Skype? It has nothing to do with safety. In 1998, the U.S. Congress enacted the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) with the best of intentions. They wanted to make certain that corporations could not collect or sell data about children under the age of 13 without parental permission, so they created a requirement to check age and get parental permission for those under 13. Most companies took one look at COPPA and decided that the process of getting parental consent was far too onerous so they simply required all participants to be at least 13 years of age. The notifications that say “You must be 13 years or older to use this service” and the pull-down menus that don’t allow you to indicate that you're under 13 have nothing to do with whether or not a website is appropriate for a child; it has to do with whether or not the company thinks that it's worth the effort to seek parental permission. See also How COPPA, as Implemented, is Misinterpreted by the Public: A Research Perspective by John Palfrey, Urs Gasser, and danah boyd.