February 25, 2024

Google Challenges Mandatory Age Verification for Minors

Google is taking a firm stand against proposed legislation that would compel online services to implement adequate age verification measures for minors. This move comes as a part of the response of the big-tech company to the congressional online child safety proposal.

In its ‘Legislative Framework to Protect Children and Teens Online’, Google dismissed the idea that online services need to verify the age of users before granting them access to their platforms.

Google also pointed to the recent legislation in Utah that wants age verification to be enforced for social media users. The company expressed its concerns that such measures can potentially hinder access to vital information.

Good legislative models — like those based on age-appropriate design principles — can help hold companies responsible for promoting safety and privacy while enabling access to richer experiences for children and teens.Google

The company acknowledged the need to balance safety with accessibility. It also stated that legislation should avoid unintended consequences, such as blocking access to essential services or mandating the submission of unnecessary identification or sensitive personal information.

The Role of Data-Intrusive Methods

According to Google, “data-intrusive methods” like verification with government-issued IDs should be reserved for “high-risk” services. These include activities like gambling, purchasing alcohol, or accessing adult content.

Louisiana, for instance, recently enacted a law requiring age verification to access adult websites to protect minors from explicit content.

However, Google doesn’t oppose age verification when it comes to these specific services. Rather than imposing laws for verifying age, Google recommends a different approach.

It states that online service providers for kids and teens should design age-appropriate products and services.

Google’s History of Violating Child Privacy

Google has come up with this framework four years after the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) imposed a fine of $170 million on the company and its subsidiary, YouTube, for breaching children’s privacy.

According to the FTC, YouTube was illegally collecting personal information from children to target them with advertisements

As part of the settlement, YouTube had to come up with a system for channel owners to designate child-directed content.

The new framework from Google also proposed legal norms to prevent personalized advertising for children and teenagers. Senator Ed Markey recently reintroduced the Children and Teens’ Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA 2.0). The Act aims to ban targeted advertisements to minors.

For those under 18, legislation should ban personalized advertising, including personalization based on a user’s age, gender, or interests.Google

Interestingly, Neal Mohan, the CEO of YouTube, claims that the platform does not target children with personalized ads. However, a report published by Adalytics, an advertising performance optimization platform, reveals something else.

Google dubbed the report “deeply flawed and uninformed”, but the matter attracted the attention of Senators Marsha Blackburn and Ed Markey. They requested an FTC investigation into the situation.

Under such circumstances, Google’s opposition to mandatory age verification for minors has sparked a critical discussion. It remains to be seen how the platform can balance online safety for children with unrestricted access to information and services.

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