Google May Start Handing Out Gmail Accounts to Kids

Google May Start Handing Out Gmail Accounts to Kids

Google may be going kid-friendly. The tech giant is allegedly planning to offer accounts to children under the age of 13 for services like Gmail and YouTube, according to reports.

The unprecedented move would allow children to navigate fully online (without doing so anonymously or lying about their ages, as many have done on sites like Facebook), and allow Google access to the lucrative education market.

The company would also be wading into controversial waters. If the search giant were to open its doors to children under 13, it would have to comply with the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA), which currently mandates that Internet companies storing data on children must first seek parental consent, and controls how that data is used for targeted advertising. In other words, Google will have to insert parents into the fold in the rumored initiative.

And it has plans to do so, according to a report by Amir Efrati of the tech news site The Information. Google may be implementing "a dashboard for parents to oversee their kids' activities," as well as a change to Google's current policy of entering birth dates only on personal computers — with children's accounts in play, Google would expand the birth date requirement onto its Android software for those signing up for an account. YouTube would see similar parental control add-ons for children's accounts.

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Privacy advocates have already condemned the news. "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 online privacy group the Center for Digital Democracy, told The Wall Street Journal.

The program is still unconfirmed and Google spokesman told Financial Times the company does not comment on rumors.

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