Google to launch services aimed at the under 13 crowd

Some are already questioning if such products would be legal, and if they violate FTC laws

Technology trends and news by Steven Loeb
December 3, 2014
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I'm 28 years old, and that puts me in a pretty unique position in history: I am old enough to remember a world before the Internet became a household name (try explaining to a kid now that there were floppy discs that were actually floppy! Actually, you'd have to first explain that there were things called discs that we used to use), and still old enough that I have spent the majority of my life online.

I spent some of my most formative years, between 10 and 15, being exposed to things that, frankly, I probably should not have been exposed to. Now, I'm not saying it damaged me, or anything like that, but I can tell you that things were not well hidden back then, and now I think it's probably even worse.

The easiest way to gain exposure to all kinds of salacious things, most likely, is Google. The world's most popular search engine can give instant access to almost anything, and that could be a big problem is the person is searching for something that isn't appropriate for them. There are only two answers to that problem, though: censor results for everyone, or create a separate product specifically for kids.

So good for Google for doing the right thing: next year it will be launching a versions of its most used products that’s will be aimed squarely at the 13 and younger crowd, according to a report from USA Today on Wednesday.

The rollout, which so far has no set timetable, will include a version of its search engine, as well as YouTube and Chrome, as well as other products.

The idea on its face seems like a good one, but, like all good ideas, there is already grumbling about some potential nefarious intentions, including whether or not services aimed directly at kids are even legal. Some will certainly see this as a way for Google to hook in users at a younger age, and it may even violate The Federal Trade Commission's Children's Online Privacy Protection Act, which goes after companies that mine data from kids without getting parental consent.

There are likely two simple solutions to this problem: to either not run ads on the service, or to require parental consent for the children to join. Otherwise it is likely that the FTC would investigate if Google is trying to use its position to sell products to kids. 

Pavni Diwanji, the vice president of engineering who is in charge of the project, says that it comes because people at the company now have children and they want to be able to protect them.

"We expect this to be controversial, but the simple truth is kids already have the technology in schools and at home," she told USA Today. "So the better approach is to simply see to it that the tech is used in a better way."

VatorNews has reached out to Google for further comment. We will update this story if we learn more.

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