Bad Ideas: Raising The Arbitrary Age Of Internet Service 'Consent' To 16

from the want-to-piss-off-high-schoolers? dept

We all know various ideas for “protecting privacy online” are floating around Congress, but must all of them be so incredibly bad? Nearly all of them assume a world that doesn’t exist. Nearly all of them assume an understanding of “privacy” that is not accurate. The latest dumb idea is to expand COPPA — the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act — that was put in place two decades ago and has been a complete joke. COPPA’s sole success is in getting everyone to think that anyone under the age of 13 isn’t supposed to be online. COPPA’s backers have admitted that they used no data in creating and have done no research into the effectiveness of the law. Indeed, actual studies have shown that COPPA’s real impact is in having parents teach their kids its okay to lie about their age online in order to access the kinds of useful services they want to use.

The “age of consent” within COPPA is 13 — and that’s why a bunch of sites claim you shouldn’t use their site if you’re under that age. Because if a site is targeting people under that age, then it has to go through extensive COPPA compliance, which most sites don’t want to do. The end result: sites say “don’t sign up if you’re under 13” and then lots of parents (and kids) lie about ages in order to let kids access those sites. It doesn’t actually protect anyone’s privacy.

So… along comes Congress and they decide the way to better protect privacy online is to raise that “age of consent” to 16.

The “Preventing Real Online Threats Endangering Children Today Act” is sponsored by Republican Rep. Tim Walberg of Michigan and Democratic Rep. Bobby Rush of Illinois.

The legislation would also require parental consent before companies can collect personal data like names, addresses and selfies from children under 16 years old. That’s up from 13 years old under the 1998 Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act.

Because we all know that teenagers are always truthful online and, dang, are they going to totally love the idea that they need their parents’ permission to use 99% of the internet. That’s really going to solve the problems now, right?

Of course not. It’s just going to teach more kids to lie about their birth dates when they sign up for internet accounts. Or, alternatively, it will overly punish the few honest kids who refuse to sign up for accounts until they’re 16. But, hey, why should Congress care about that when they’re “protecting the children.”

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Comments on “Bad Ideas: Raising The Arbitrary Age Of Internet Service 'Consent' To 16”

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Anonymous Coward says:

I have been lying to computers about my age since about 1990 and think that it is good practice for everyone to inject bad data into everyone spying on us. For the sake of an interesting data set/data point I would like steam to report what percentage of people say that they were born on January 1 for age verification.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Never giving out my true birthdate

A company I worked for needed to collect birthdates on a particular site for some reason or another. The datepicker used on the site could either open up to today’s month, or any previous month (with the actual specific day being unselected). I picked August 1988. Lo and behold, something like 10% of the site’s users going forward, were showing a DOB sometime in August 1988.

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
OldMugwump (profile) says:

Re: Re: Why would anyone put a real date there?

Because it’s easier to remember than a made-up one.

Perhaps the best policy is to pick a single fake date (easy to remember) for the 99% of cases where it doesn’t matter if it’s real.

Preferably sometime in the year 1900. That flags it as honestly, transparently, fake.

(If you were actually born in 1900, I apologize.)

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Why would anyone put a real date there?

Because it’s easier to remember than a made-up one.

Why should one need to remember it? The only reason I can think of is if it’s used as some sort of account recovery feature, in which case it’s especially important to use one other people won’t be able to guess—i.e., something fake.

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This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
Anonymous Coward says:

Re: This would end Chromebooks in education.

More like a direct attack on online gaming and social media. Not that i care much about any of those three things personally, but it’s a bad idea that will have bad results for children, parents, services, and everyone else as collateral damage.

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

It’s not just gaming and social media. This would also affect email services and other web sites that state you have to be 13 to use their site, like Youtube. Some sites just list it in the fine print and don’t ask you before letting you on to their site, if they don’t require a login to use the site.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

Sure, but i don’t think they intend to screw up email. I was more rolling with "who might they actually intend to break, or what might they not want "children" doing". Maybe alongside the usual doing something / manufactured moral panic. The result will be that, yes, it will affect pretty much everything.

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
Stephen T. Stone (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2

Sure, these lawmakers might not intend to fuck up anything, but the collateral damage they could create would show how they don’t care about fucking up anything so long as they can be seen doing something righteous. The effect of an act is its true intent; if they don’t want people to think their bill is potentially devastating to the Internet, they should craft a bill designed not to let that happen.

Scary Devil Monastery (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Re:

"Sure, these lawmakers might not intend to fuck up anything, but the collateral damage they could create would show how they don’t care about fucking up anything so long as they can be seen doing something righteous."

Sadly true. "Good intentions" and staggering ineptitude is, and has always been, a worse combination than deliberate malice.

People in China and Russia today can point out how our elected leaders tip us into one catastrophe after another by bumbling about trying to earn votes or driven by one ideology or another, while back in their country the enlightened dictator has at least ensured things are consistent, predictable, and fairly decent as long as you make sure not to question the government.

That’s just fucking embarrassment, in addition to the harm it does to the perception of the democratic process from the start.

and it’s, in the end, all our fault. we get the leaders we elect. With at least half of the voting population being easily led sheep that has had predictable results.

Wendy Cockcroft (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:4 Re:

People in China and Russia today can point out how our elected leaders tip us into one catastrophe after another by bumbling about trying to earn votes or driven by one ideology or another, while back in their country the enlightened dictator has at least ensured things are consistent, predictable, and fairly decent as long as you make sure not to question the government.

I’ve seen right wing nut jobs say the same thing in "conservative" spaces.

Meanwhile, on this side of the Pond, Brexit supporters and actual leftists are banging on about democracy and the will o’ duped people as if being dumb enough to fall for a con == democracy in action.

Yes indeed, stupid, uneducated voters do make democracy look bad, and authoritarian dictatorships look like sane and sober leadership. Until the Government goons come for them.

urza9814 (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:5 Re:

"Yes indeed, stupid, uneducated voters do make democracy look bad, and authoritarian dictatorships look like sane and sober leadership. Until the Government goons come for them."

Government goons vs extrajudicial black sites and drone strikes…I’m not seeing much of a difference on that aspect either.

Scary Devil Monastery (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:6 Re:

"Government goons vs extrajudicial black sites and drone strikes…I’m not seeing much of a difference on that aspect either."

…or, for that matter, secret military tribunals instead of courtrooms for selected criminals…etc, etc.

If the voters don’t take an elected politician to task, no one will. And we are by and large too fundamentally lazy to do so unless we’ve just had to fight our way through a bloody revolution.

Scary Devil Monastery (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:8 Re:

"I mean, what are we going to do about it — vote for someone else?"

Just rewatched my old copy of "Yes, Prime minister". It’s somehow uncanny how little political reality has changed in the 30 years since it was released.

It’s still a case of the politicians smugly being aware that all they have to do is to be the least unpalatable choice. It’s not hard to do when almost all of party politics serve to bring whatever candidate the party leadership considers to be least offensive to the fore…

Scary Devil Monastery (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:5 Re:

"I’ve seen right wing nut jobs say the same thing in "conservative" spaces. "

That’s how it starts, yes. The democratic process of elected leadership fails because a succession of ever more inept elected inbreds serve to nurture increasing voter apathy at the end of which suddenly a strong man appears the attractive or at least less bad choice. The last days of the Weimar republic come to mind.

"Yes indeed, stupid, uneducated voters do make democracy look bad, and authoritarian dictatorships look like sane and sober leadership. Until the Government goons come for them."

Another few quotes come to mind;
"The price of freedom is everlasting vigilance". – Jeffersson.
*"The one who holds himself too wise to engage in politics shall be condemned to be ruled by those he thought inferior". – Plato.

Anonymous Coward says:

This will be as ridiculous s law as the present one and that’s probably why it will be assed into law. if only members of Congress spent as much time on bills that would actually be beneficial to those they represent, instead of things like this. coming out with this sort of thing is nothing but grandstanding, mainly because they’ve done absolutely nothing at all the past months and need to appear to be earning their salaries!

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Jason says:

why should Congress care about that when they’re "protecting the children."

Shouldn’t that be "PROTECTing" the children?

Am I the only one that finds all of the needlessly backronym’d bill names to be ridiculous?

In this case, they weren’t even able to do that much right.

This Act may be cited as the "Preventing Real Online Threats Endangering Children Today" or the "PROTECT Kids Act".

So, its full name is the "Preventing Real Online Threats Endangering Children Today Kids Act" then? Sigh.

Uriel-238 (profile) says:

And so, MORE kids illegally using the internet.

Gagillions of kids today are using social media like Facebook and Snapchat while they are underage, and without any (or at least sufficient) parent supervision. I don’t know exactly how many gagillions is, but the practice is ubiquitous within the States, including in my own home.

And so what happens when we take away internet privileges from countless young teenagers?

I’m sure they’ll fall into lockstep just like they stopped sexting each other.

Scary Devil Monastery (profile) says:

Re: And so, MORE kids illegally using the internet.

"Gagillions of kids today are using social media like Facebook and Snapchat while they are underage, and without any (or at least sufficient) parent supervision. I don’t know exactly how many gagillions is, but the practice is ubiquitous within the States, including in my own home."

The phenomenon of overlexification. Generally speaking this is just one more law which will, in a stroke, turn a few dozen million american households from being normal and well-adjusted families into dens of actual criminal activity because the sons and daughters in the house like to giggle at cute cat pictures on the icanhascheezburger site.

At the end of this road the average citizen just assumes that since just breathing violates half a dozen laws and ordinances, why should they extend respect to the rest of the legal code?

Annonymouse says:

Age of consent

USA flavour of the moment – why does it always taste like excrement?

As of August 2018, each U.S. state has set its age of consent at either age 16, age 17, or age 18.

Enlistment in the United States military is 17 (with parental consent) and 18 (without parental consent).

The minimum age to drive in the USA is just 16 in some states, however other states require you to be at least 18. You can obtain a learner’s permit in Alaska, Arkansas, Iowa, Kansas, North and South Dakota at just 14 years old.

Minimum legal age to purchase alcohol is 21 in all states.

You can vote at age 17 in a primary if you’ll be 18 by the next general election. You can register if you are at least 16 but cannot vote unless you will be at least 18 years old by the next general election.

Do you see a problem here like I see a problem here?

Scary Devil Monastery (profile) says:

Re: Age of consent

"Do you see a problem here like I see a problem here?"

A problem shared by most of the civilized world.

Where I’m from the age of consent is 16 but the age you can legally depict in images is 18.

Which basically turns sexting teen into producers of honest-to-god CP even when the one they sext is someone they can legally screw.

Lawmakers, of course, failed to see the issue, except for one absolute genius who praised the law but recommended that sexting teens would be advised not "observe discretion". Homer-worthy D’oh ensued…

I’m not sure how many americans will respect a 16-year age of consent for general internet use, but predict that quite a lot of teens will end up becoming hardened and unrepentant criminals according to that law.

Scary Devil Monastery (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Age of consent

"And if you break one law, why not more? You end up picking and choosing which laws to obey — or not. Then you get caught…"

It’s not exactly new, though. I think the "dumb laws" website is still up…

But it brings home the point MLK had about laws, his view of them predictably jaded under the Jim Crow legislation of the south; As much as it is any person’s obligation to uphold and defend a just law there’s a similar obligation to break the unjust one.

"And that’s where my antipathy to authoritarianism comes from. When the people in charge are outright morons, why the hell should I respect them?"

Or, sadly, they’re competent enough at their job to realize that no matter how dumb they appear to be their constituents will prove even dumber and vote for them again in the next election. After which all that remains is their personal cost-benefit analysis of how to use the office they hold to best effect.

I’ve grown used to the idea of always looking at the obvious inept and wonder whether I’m looking at Jim Hacker or Humphrey Appleby.

Anonymous Coward says:

Websites are hacked every week, a million user,s data exposed ,
private companys will be using windows 7 for years ,even though security updates are over ,no more free support.
Why would any smart person give their real birth date to random websites ?
this will mean adults will have to deal with websites asking for their age,
this will be a pain for every user who wants to log in to a website.
it will not help users at all.
At this stage the web is under attack from politicians that make vague broad laws that help no one.
except maybe lawyers or copyright trolls .
Meanwhile isps, can sell user browsing data to anyone ,
and telecoms have mediocre security re sim card hijacking .

Anonymous Coward says:

These laws are an excuse to abuse

When you see laws that can’t work and put you in violation for existing, then you know they are for busting businesses, organizations, or individuals that are not aligned politically. The laws are rediculous, so they are only selectively enforced, else generally they’d fail.

They are a time bomb to bust any company that challenges fedral policy. So your media platform starts speaking against two party system and show multiparty could actually work in US. You just stepped in a big stinking pile of entrenched entitled power. Well guess what, 16 year olds may or may not use your site. Guess what else, your web site uses the same checks everyone else does but you "dont do enough to PROTECT our children." Dont believe it. Dont think you should pay the $1000 per alledged unde age subscriber. Well f### you. Your company will go bankrupt fighting the unlimited resourses of your government. You bring 2 lawyers, we bring 12.

… teaches you about trying to promote government reform on your platform.

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