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."

Filed Under: bobby rush, congress, coppa, internet, kids, lying, privacy, tim walberg


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  1. icon
    Scary Devil Monastery (profile), 21 Jan 2020 @ 4:47am

    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.


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