Are Kid-Friendly Versions Of YouTube, Gmail On The Way?

redOrbit Staff & Wire Reports – Your Universe Online
Google is reportedly developing a kid-friendly version of its video-streaming website YouTube, and is also said to be considering allowing youngsters under the age of 13 to sign up for special Gmail accounts, the Financial Times reported on Tuesday.
According to European Technology Correspondent Murad Ahmed, the new version of YouTube will allow parents to have control over how their children use the service. Officially, Google does not allow anyone under the age of 13 to sign up for their services, though Ahmed said that “millions of youngsters” have already done so.
As a result, the tech giant is mulling over ways to formalize its relationship with those younger Internet users. With the new version of YouTube, not only would parents have control over what types of content their sons and daughters could access, but it would also allow them to limit the amount of information collected by Google.
“Google and most other Internet companies tread carefully because of the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act, or COPPA,” explained Wall Street Journal reporters Alistair Barr and Rolfe Winkler. “The law imposes strict limits on how information about children under 13 is collected; it requires parents’ consent and tightly controls how that data can be used for advertising.”
While companies are not liable if users lie to them about their ages, Barr and Winkler believe that Google’s new initiative is driven in part by the fact that some parents are already attempting to create accounts for their kids. The source said that the firm is attempting to make the process easier and compliant with COPPA regulations.
Google spokesman Peter Barron told Reuters that he would not comment on what he referred to as “rumors and speculation,” but the Wall Street Journal said that news of the proposed changes has already caused some concern amount online privacy advocates.
“Unless Google does this right it will threaten the privacy of millions of children and deny parents the ability to make meaningful decisions about who can collect information on their kids,” Jeff Chester, executive director of the Center for Digital Democracy, told Barr and Winkler.
Chester added that the organization will meet with its legal team on Wednesday to devise a plan to monitor the rollout of these proposed new services, and had also contacted the US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) – which enforces COPPA regulations – with their concerns. He said that the Center wants to ensure that Google allows parents to have adequate control over their children’s private information.
“Back in 2011, Facebook chief Mark Zuckerberg made headlines when he said that kids under 13 should be allowed on the site. But COPPA has thus far stood in the way of any major action on that front,” said PC Magazine’s Angela Moscaritolo.
The FTC, which declined the Wall Street Journal’s request for comment on the issue, updated the laws in 2012 to lay out how websites, apps, and third-party networks should handle the personal information of children, Moscaritolo added. Prior to that, it had not been revised since 1998, before the advent of smartphones and social networks.
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