by Mike Masnick

Filed Under:
coppa, terms of service, under 13

google, khan academy

On the Internet, Google+ Knows You're A TOS-Violating 10-Year-Old Dog

from the unintended-consequences dept

theodp writes
"In its tear-jerker 'Dear Sophie' Google Chrome ad, a father creates a Gmail account (dear.sophie.lee@gmail.com) for his just-born daughter to preserve memories of her childhood. So, how does that work out in real life? Not so good, at least in the case of 10-year-old Alex Sutherland, who the WSJ reports was reduced to tears after being notified that the Gmail account his father created on his behalf two years earlier would be deleted because the Google+ Profile Alex created triggered a Google Terms of Service age violation. 'You made my son cry, Google,' wrote blogger Martin Sutherland. 'I'm not inclined to forgive that.' Not to pile on, but Alex may also be persona non grata at Khan Academy, where learning under the age of 13 can also constitute a TOS violation."
To be fair, the "under 13" age issue is not something that should be blamed on Google, Khan Academy or any other site (and, really, if theodp wanted to be accurate, he could list most of the top sites on the internet, who all have this same restriction). It's (of course!) the result of poorly thought out legislation. Namely, the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act -- another one of these "for the children" laws that politicians love to pass without thinking about the unintended consequences. Here, as in many cases, the intentions may be good: to prevent websites from collecting too much info from children who don't quite recognize what they're doing, but the actual results are that most sites simply put in their terms of service that the site is not for people under 13, even if everyone assumes that those under 13 still use those sites.

Of course, even bringing up how silly this is can lead to backlash. When Mark Zuckerberg recently suggested that perhaps the law needed some rethinking to make it more reasonable for those under 13 to use useful parts of the internet, it was dubbed "controversial", and he had to clarify his remarks to make clear that he wasn't trying to get under 13 kids on the site any time soon.

Either way, it does seem silly for Google to put out a commercial in which a father creates an email address for someone under 13... when it's taking away accounts from others who do the same thing...

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  1. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 2 Aug 2011 @ 7:09am

    This is one of those cases where an exceptional situation can make a perfectly good and reasonable law look bad.

    It's sort of a Techdirt classic.

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