Overhype

by Mike Masnick


Filed Under:
apps, coppa, ftc, protect the children, under 13

Companies:
yelp



FTC Goes After Yelp Because Yelp Has The Audacity To Let Kids Use Its App

from the wait,-what's-the-problem-exactly? dept

For years now, we've discussed the ridiculousness of the COPPA law (the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act). The rallying cry of "protect the children!" quite frequently leads to very poor policy decisions, and COPPA (and the enforcement around it) is a perfect example of that. While there might possibly be good intentions behind the law, the practical reality is that it's a joke. It effectively places a much larger burden on any site that allows anyone under 13 to use the site. While, in practice, it's supposed to only apply to sites that are targeted to kids, in an attempt to avoid that, many sites put a blanket ban on those under 13. In our own terms of service we explicitly tell anyone under 13 not to register with our site. Our lawyers more or less insisted that we had to do this, and plenty of other sites do the same. So the end result is that kids under 13, who often should be using the internet, are told that they can't use large parts of the internet -- including sites that are useful to their education. But of course many of them still use the internet. They just lie about it. In fact, one researcher found that the only practical effect of the law is that it leads parents to teach their kids that it's okay to lie. Even worse, the FTC seems entirely unconcerned about the real impact of the law -- but prefers to insist that it's really protecting children, despite no actual evidence to support this. In fact, the FTC has even pushed to expand the law.

The FTC has now gone after its latest COPPA "violator": Yelp. According to the complaint filed against the company Yelp had the audacity to let kids under 13 register for its service via the company's iOS and Android apps. And then? Well, I assume that the very small number of kids who did so, used the app to *gasp* find reviews on restaurants and such things. The FTC complaint doesn't present any evidence of any actual harm here. Just the fact that it let a small number of kids register, and then didn't meet all the checkbox requirements of "protecting the children."

I'm honestly curious if the "consumer protection division" at the FTC thinks that kids would be better off if they were blocked from using Yelp entirely, or if they just think,"Aha, gotcha!" when they file these kinds of lawsuits?

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  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 17 Sep 2014 @ 1:44pm

    I suspect its more a case of finding someone to target, just to show that they are enforcing the law, and so justify their own existence.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 17 Sep 2014 @ 1:47pm

    laws like COPPA are needed but they should be used wisely, not as blankets. what the FTC is doing here is trying to make itself look good to the public. the usual thing that follows this type of action is that their interference screws things up totally, putting children in danger where they weren't before!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      John Fenderson (profile), 17 Sep 2014 @ 3:32pm

      Re:

      It depends on what you mean by "laws like COPPA". If you mean laws that protect minors from being taken advantage of, perhaps true (it depends on if the existing laws that do this somehow don't cover internet activities).

      If you actually mean "laws like COPPA", though, I disagree. COPPA was poorly thought out, is largely unenforceable, and has a high potential for abuse. It's pretty pointless in terms of its actual goal.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Fake Out Of The Blue (profile), 17 Sep 2014 @ 1:50pm

    Aw Crap!

    How do I un register?

    I did not actually read the TOS and my b-day is not for two more weeks...

    Google SUCKS!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Chris ODonnell (profile), 17 Sep 2014 @ 1:52pm

    The Federal fiscal year ends 9/30. What better time to make a show of how hard they are working to protect the children?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Uriel-238 (profile), 17 Sep 2014 @ 2:04pm

    What we teach kids by example.

    Look at our three branches of government: It's okay to lie, cheat, steal and murder, especially for the purposes of covering your own ass for things you might have done in the past, or things you might be attacked for, regardless of whether it was wrong.

    The way you get ahead is by behaving dishonorably. Pretending the world is fair only lets those who cheat take advantage of you.

    Comcast: In order to get things done, lying is mandatory. e.g. they won't let you close an account on demand. You have to tell them yours is one of their acceptable circumstances such as moving out of the country.

    Honesty, integrity, respect, honor are for chumps, and the sooner our kids learn that, the better.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    DannyB (profile), 17 Sep 2014 @ 2:07pm

    What did you expect?

    Did you expect the FTC to go after companies with deep pockets and who own powerful legislators?

    The FTC has to look like it is busy.

    So who is it going to pick on?

    Definitely not on big companies doing seriously bad things.

    Does Yelp buy and sell, and collect and trade legislators with their friends like big companies? No?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Irving, 17 Sep 2014 @ 3:57pm

    If you want to protect the children from something, put an age restriction on religious institutions.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 17 Sep 2014 @ 4:02pm

    I blame Free will if these kids continue to learn about freedom they will be a blight on society as we know it they will smoke the marijuana go through boxes of tissues while watching internet porn and be doing lines of cocaine off of their PS4s and Xbox .

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Greg, 17 Sep 2014 @ 4:03pm

    Yelp sucks

    Yelp sucks!

    I am glad that someone is finally going after them.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 17 Sep 2014 @ 4:43pm

    I'll just leave this here

    Yelp Is Allowed To Manipulate Ratings And Remove Good Reviews, Says Court

    http://sfist.com/2014/09/04/yelp_is_allowed_to_manipulate_ratin.php

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 17 Sep 2014 @ 6:02pm

      Re: I'll just leave this here

      Because a company does bad things, it deserves something bad but unrelated to happen to it?

      I'd rather have companies punished for their *actual* bad behaviour. But hey, that requires good laws and courts that aren't insane, so what am I thinking?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 18 Sep 2014 @ 6:07am

        Re: Re: I'll just leave this here

        "Because a company does bad things, it deserves something bad but unrelated to happen to it?"

        Yeah, because that's totally what I posted.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    alternatives(), 18 Sep 2014 @ 2:22am

    Perhaps someone is upset over the $50 no ad fee

    I removed yelp links after seeing the $50 a month fee to not have ads for your competition show up when a customer searches for a your store.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    JustMe (profile), 18 Sep 2014 @ 4:40am

    Doesn't matter who controls the WH or Congress

    When reading these wackadoodle stories I am led to believe the entrenched civilian bureaucracy at the federal agencies exist only to keep themselves employed. In practice this usually means making a couple of high-profile announcements per year at each agency so they have something to point to when the auditors come knocking.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 18 Sep 2014 @ 6:14am

      Re: Doesn't matter who controls the WH or Congress

      "It doesn't matter ..."

      I read this sort of whining quite often, it is both childish and irresponsible. If one is too lazy to understand the issues and develop an informed opinion then they really should not attempt to influence others with their retorts whining about how things are sooooo bad and nothing can be done about it.

      Do not believe these people, your vote counts. Get off the couch and go vote. Not only is it your right as a citizen, it is your responsibility.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 18 Sep 2014 @ 7:00am

    Terms of service

    In our own terms of service we explicitly tell anyone under 13 not to register with our site. Our lawyers more or less insisted that we had to do this
    How's that supposed to work? Has it been tested in court? Contracts aren't necessarily binding when dealing with minors. COPPA seems like a dangerous law the government could use to go after almost any site, unless they're actually very thorough about checking ages (e.g. asking people to send government ID photographs)—unless it has some exception that makes a checkbox good enough.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 18 Sep 2014 @ 8:11am

    "...the practical reality..."

    "While there might possibly be good intentions behind the law, the practical reality is that it's a joke."

    In light of current models for new legislation, isn't that pretty much becoming the short definition of "law"?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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