Google is ready to target a special set of potential new customers: Children under the age of 13. The Information and The Wall Street Journal report that the company wants to offer children an easy yet safe way to access Google Internet services including Gmail and YouTube, which aren’t officially available to children, although they can easily sidestep Google’s precautionary settings by lying about their age when setting up an account.
This particular move doesn’t come without its share of controversy, especially considering Google’s privacy-infringing actions in the past and the fact that strict laws govern what Internet companies can do when it comes to kids accessing their services. However, the company apparently wants make parents feel more comfortable about this by offering them ways of monitoring what their children do online alongside a safer version of YouTube.
Google and all other Internet companies must abide to the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA), when it comes to collecting and sharing data about children under 13, so making money off ads served to children may be a more complex task for the search giant.
“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,” online privacy group Center for Digital Democracy’s executive director Jeff Chester told the Journal.
The group wants to monitor Google’s eventual rollout of its services to children under 13 “to make sure the system provides parents enough control over the privacy of their kids’ information.”
It’s not clear when Google will make its online services officially available to children.