There’s a good opinion piece on age verification and social networking websites by CDT’s Leslie Harris on the ABC news site.
Third, can we verify age or identity and still protect privacy? Would personal information about minors have to be submitted and maintained in large databases, or would Internet users have to have an authenticated identification card to go online?
CDT is on the Berkman Center task force setup by the MySpace & Attorneys General joint statement to study online authentication techniques. Intelligent study of the issue is much needed, as age verification is a hot topic in the states.
So far this year we’ve seen age verification bills introduced in Georgia, Illinois, Iowa, and Mississippi (last year also saw Connecticut and North Carolina). These bills would force the sites to age verify its users and obtain parental consent before kids under 18 could register. I’m happy to say that Mississippi’s bill failed to make crossover and is dead, and Georgia’s bill is effectively dead.
Age verification is looked upon as a way to keep our kids safer online, but it’s really an access control device that by itself does nothing to limit opportunities for sexual predators. Politicians should avoid age verification mandates, particularly as we have a panel of experts to study the issue over the next year!