Remember that heartwarming Dear Sophie Google Chrome ad? Where the dad made his newborn daughter a Gmail account and then emailed her photos and memories as she grew older, creating an ongoing archive of her life? It was great. It was also technically not allowed: Google's terms of service forbid kids under 13 from signing up.
That all might be about to change: according to a new report in The Information, Google has been working on a suite of tools that would let kids more easily use its services with permission from their parents, including a child-safe version of YouTube. Under the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act, sites that want let kids under 13 sign up need to get permission from their parents in one of several ways; Yahoo asks parents to authorize a 50-cent credit card charge, for example. (The report also claims that Andy Rubin didn't want to add an age question to the Android setup process even though it's included on the web, so Google's user data split into users with listed ages and those without.)
Companies aren't liable for kids who just lie about their age to sign up, and kids are notorious liars, so no one knows how many kids are actually on any given site. But if company like Google and Facebook actually build out products and services that let parents constructively manage how their kids use their sites, it's far more likely parents will actually sign up and give permission upfront — imagine Dear Sophie as an actual product, not just a heartwarming hack. That's a good solution for parents, kids, and Google, which of course wants to collect as much information as possible.
Google: coming for your children.
Check out The Verge's June Report on 'Google's new material design direction