Saturday, November 11, 2006

The protection of consumer information

Xanga recently was fined $1M for violating children's online privacy. See

At UnlockAustin, we do not accept memberships from members under the age of 13 years old. It is stated on the sign-up that members must be 13 years old to sign-up for the service. Parental consent is necessary for children under the ages of 13 to join an Internet website. It is plausible that websites might accept parental consent so that their children can use the website, but this can be hard to verify. In the case of Xanga, parental consent wasn't enforced for those under the age of 13.

It is our duty to respect personal privacy laws and the wishes of these children's parents. This law was designed for protect children from capturing their personally identifiable information.

Many websites do not require members to be at least 13 years old, and these websites should heed the warning of the FTC, and take measures to stop children under 13 years of age from joining.

Some children avoid this rule by lying about their age to gain access to these websites. Examples of websites that require people to enter their age are alcohol sites or pornography sites. Stricter measures may need to be taken on these types of websites to ensure the age of their visitors, such as being required to enter their driver's license number. However, at websites that do not have provocative material, the request for identification numbers isn't always possible, especially for children under the age of 16.

Special software is available through certain Internet service providers, such as AOL. This software attempts to block access to adult sites when a child is logged into the service.

In all, privacy has come a long way over the years, and as the rules of the Internet continue to become more defined, websites will be forced to catch up with these rules.