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Do you know what is your child’s age requirement to sign up online?

May 27, 2013 1 comment

As the Internet permeates every aspect of the economy and society, it is also becoming an essential element of our children’s lives. While it can bring considerable benefits for their education and development, it also exposes them to online risks such as access to inappropriate content, harmful interactions with other children or with adults, and exposure to aggressive marketing practices.

Children online can also put their computer systems at risk and disseminate their personal data without understanding the potential long-term privacy consequences.

In addition, there are other risks for children using online environments, such as:

Privacy risks

-cyber-bullying

-cyber-stalking

-age-inappropriate content

-online grooming

-identity theft

-emotional implications.

Beside support and guidance from parents when using the online environment, an appropriate mental development and understanding is important for a child when using an online platform. For these reasons, in both the United States and the European Union, a minimum age requirements for accessing the “online world” was set as a legal requirement.

E-Crime Expert thinks that the minimum age requirements a child should meet when signing up for an email account, Facebook, etc., should be a topic of interest for parents. For these reasons, we researched the minimum age requirements on some of the most popular online sites and platforms.

The Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) in United States applies to the online collection of personal information by persons or entities under U.S. jurisdiction from children under 13 years of age. It details what a website operator must include in a privacy policy, when and how to seek verifiable consent from a parent or guardian, and what responsibilities an operator has to protect children’s privacy and safety online including restrictions on the marketing to those under 13. While children under 13 can legally give out personal information with their parents’ permission, many websites altogether disallow underage children from using their services due to the amount of work involved.

In the European Union, the European Commission released in January 2012, a Proposal on the protection of individuals with regard to the processing of personal data and on the free movement of such data (General Data Protection Regulation).

This Proposal has specific requirements with regards to Children. They deserve specific protection of their personal data, as they may be less aware of risks, consequences, safeguards and their rights in relation to the processing of personal data. To determine when an individual is a child, this Regulation should take over the definition laid down by the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.

“Article 8
Processing of personal data of a child

For the purposes of this Regulation, in relation to the offering of information society services directly to a child, the processing of personal data of a child below the age of 13 years shall only be lawful if and to the extent that consent is given or authorised by the child’s parent or custodian. The controller (i.e. the person in charge with the collection, use and disclosure of personal data) shall make reasonable efforts to obtain verifiable consent, taking into consideration available technology”.

Following, are the minimum age requirements for children using different Internet websites or Social Networking Services and other online platforms:

facebook-age-restriction

 1.      Facebook:

How old do you have to be to sign up for Facebook?

In order to be eligible to sign up for Facebook, you must be at least 13 years old.

The minimum age requirement on Facebook is more or less enforceable. Simply lying about your birthdate easily circumvents the policy.

The Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) mandates that websites that collect information about users aren’t allowed to sign on anyone under the age of 13. As a result, Facebook’s Statement of Rights and Responsibilities require users of the social network to be at least 13 years old (and even older, in some jurisdictions).

According to MinorMonitor, over 38 percent of children with Facebook accounts are 12-years-old and under. Even more worryingly, 4 percent of children on Facebook are reported to be 6-years-old or younger, which translates to some 800,000 kindergarteners on Facebook.

These results come from a survey of 1,000 parents of children under 18-years-old who use Facebook. The company provides a free, web-based parental tool that gives parents a quick view into their child’s Facebook use, including potential dangerous activities such as the friending of online predators, cyberbullying, violence, drug and alcohol use, as well as sexual references.

2.      Google:

Age requirements on Google Accounts:

  •  United States: 13 or older
  •  Spain: 14 or older
  •  South Korea: 14 or older
  •  Netherlands: 16 or older
  •  All other countries: 13 or older

Some Google products have specific age requirements. Here are a few examples:

  • YouTube: When a YouTube video has been age-restricted, a warning screen is displayed and only users who are 18 or older can watch it. Learn more about age-restricted videos.
  • Google Wallet: 18+
  •  AdSense: 18+
  •  AdWords: 18+

3.      Yahoo

When a child under age 13 attempts to register with Yahoo!, they ask the child to have a parent or guardian create a Yahoo! Family Account to obtain parental permission.

Yahoo! does not contact children under age 13 about special offers or for marketing purposes without a parent’s permission.

Yahoo! does not ask a child under age 13 for more personal information, as a condition of participation, than is reasonably necessary to participate in a given activity or promotion.

Yahoo! is concerned about the safety and privacy of all its users, particularly children. For this reason, parents of children under the age of 13 who wish to allow their children access to the Yahoo! Services must create a Yahoo! Family Account. When you create a Yahoo! Family Account and add your child to the account, you certify that you are at least 18 years old and that you are the legal guardian of the child/children listed on the Yahoo! Family Account. By adding a child to your Yahoo! Family Account, you also give your child permission to access many areas of the Yahoo! Services, including, email, message boards and instant messaging (among others). Please remember that the Yahoo! Services is designed to appeal to a broad audience. Accordingly, as the legal guardian, it is your responsibility to determine whether any of the Yahoo! Services areas and/or Content are appropriate for your child.

4.      Hotmail

As on Hotmail’s Terms of Use is no reference to the age requirements to join the service, we did our own registration and it appears that 13 is the age requirement for joining Hotmail, as shown below:

I.                   Attempt indicating the user is 6 years old

Step 1   

1

Step 2                        

2

Step 3

3

 

II.                Second attempt, indicating the user is 13 years old.

Step 1

4Step 2

5

 

5.        MySpace 

  • You must be at least 13 years old to have a Myspace profile
  • If you’re under 16 years old, you’re not allowed to list your age as over 16 and make your profile public (your profile must be set to private)
  • If you’re under 18, you’re not allowed to list your age as over 18
  • Users under 18 are not able to make changes to their listed age

Notes & Tips

  • If you break any of the above rules, MySpace will be forced to delete your profile for safety and security reasons (it’s all in their Terms of Use)

6.      Skype

Skype not directly sets up an age restriction within their Terms of Use.

“Jurisdiction’s Restrictions: If the law of Your country prohibits You from downloading or using Skype Software because You are under the age limit or because the Skype Software is not allowed in Your country, please don’t use it”.

According to this, for US the minimum age requirement is 13 + (COPPA).

7.      LinkedIn

PRIVACY POLICY, 18!

In terms of LinkedIn’s Privacy Policy:

 ”Children are not eligible to use our service and we ask that minors (under the age of 18) do not submit any personal information to us or use the service.”

8.      Twitter

Age screening on Twitter

Age screening is a way for brands and others to determine online whether a follower meets a minimum age requirement, in a way that is consistent with relevant industry or legal guidelines. This makes it easier for advertisers and others with content not suitable for minors (e.g. alcohol advertisers) to advertise on Twitter.

There apparently, is now age restriction for setting up an account on Twitter (as we set it up without being asked about our age). See below:

Step 1

6

Step 2: Done!

7

For more advice on how children could stay safe online (you could also share this with your child), click here to visit the material E-Crime Expert specially created for this purpose.

Any questions can be submitted to: dan@e-crimeexpert.com

Additional information can be found at: www.e-crimeexppert.com

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Popularity of Social Network Services and user fees

October 7, 2011 Leave a comment

Yesterday, E-Crime Expert posted a blog about the Development of Social Networking Systems on the Internet, as part of a series that aims to contribute to a better understanding regarding why privacy and personal data are so vulnerable in relation with the Internet and its adjacent services/platforms, today’s post briefly describes the development of SNS on the Internet.

All these examples of social network systems/services (SNS) were provided to show the evolution of human relations, interactions and networking. Indeed there is a great need and desire for people to interact with each other and these online forms of interaction embraced various forms such as: written, visual, musical, etc. People need to socialize, need to express themselves, need to exchange information. SNS also present a huge opportunity for people to become known publically, for example, they can express their artistic capabilities at no cost or very low cost (i.e. Justin Bieber-singer became a star because of his YouTube videos).

Those SNS became so popular and indispensable for users because there are provided these services free of charge. According to Jeff Jarvis: “Free it is impossible to compete against. The most efficient marketplace is a free marketplace.” Besides this, it is also more convenient for some people to socialize from their computer rather then going out to physically meet someone. When someone goes out with their friends, she can usually only meet a certain number of them, but with SNS she can interact in real time with hundreds of people.

Among all, Facebook has the highest audience and people around the world use this platform daily in order to interact, network, meet, share, and socialize with other people. In June 2010, 30.000 users in Canada closed their account symbolically as a form of protest to Facebook’s privacy intrusion. It was symbolic as this number represents a quarter of the total number of people that open an account daily at that time. Today, Facebook has the same amount of users as the Internet had in total in 2004!

SNS also, come together with some debatable hidden features as well. Besides the amazing opportunities given to human beings to socialize, these services have to be monetized (have to be profitable) in order for the developers to be able to provide them to the public at large. The monetization of SNS includes among classic advertising (i.e. someone buys time and space on a website and posts their advertisement), non-traditional ones too. This new form of advertising came with brand new features and concepts where the users could be individually targeted or grouped. According to Ken Auletta: Twitter, YouTube and Facebook have a vast number of users, but yet they are not profitable. Facebook and MySpace tried to sell user-friendly advertising such as the Nike brand for example. But according to Robert Pittman, the former President of AOL, this did not work because users did not want to be interrupted while interacting with other users and also they did not want to be identified with products they do not like, support or believe in. Though, in order to become profitable they need to find a solution to monetize their SNS. A solution to sell more advertising could work if they better knew their users’ profiles, preferences and private information and they could later sell it to commercial business or advertisers. Nonetheless that this does not come without some trades-off for users which what have to offer in exchange: their privacy, which is actually their “fee” for using these services!

Stay tunned for the next post which describes what is about the Retrieving Private Information From SNS’s Users.

Any questions can be submitted to: dan@e-crimeexpert.com

Additional information can be found at: www.e-crimeexppert.com

Did you think that those SNS are really free of charge? Are you on Facebook? Which other SNS are you using?

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Development of Social Networking Systems on the Internet

October 6, 2011 6 comments

From the same series that aims to contribute to a better understanding regarding why privacy and personal data are so vulnerable in relation with the Internet and its adjacent services/platforms, today’s post briefly describes the development of SNS on the Internet.

The Internet era came into place in 1974 when the first search network, between academic and research sites, based on the ARPANET project, which was developed in the 1960’s as a network project of the U.S. Department of Defence’s Advanced Research Projects Agency. This new technological development changed the human and social relations among people. Before, people understood that in order to exchange information, they should meet on a scheduled appointment with other people, send letters, make phone calls, and visit. But because of the Internet, these types of interactions changed. The exchange of information became very fast and if one wanted to have access to information fast and before someone else, they should adapt to the new way of exchanging information and interacting with other people. The human interactions became global and cheaper as people could exchange information from the comfort of their home or office, and in comparison to the mail, telegraph, telephone, cell phone, the Internet is more efficient (i.e. cost, time, speed) and more widespread among people from a social and professional perspective.

This transition has not been done over night, but started with Bulletin Board back in 1980’s. The Bulletin Board System (BBS), developed by Ward Christensen, allowed people to communicate with each other by exchanging messages and software using a central computer system. Later, CompuServe, pioneered by AOL, came into place and allowed users to exchange files and news in real time. It provided a portal where users got together to watch news, share impressions, files or to interact together. Originally, AOL was offered as a paid service. Also, their goal was to bring in and keep as many users as possible for as long as possible, on their portal in order to generate traffic and revenue from advertising. In 1997, the Blog concept was released having as scope to allow people post their day-to-day experience, knowledge and/or opinions and to receive feedback and comments from other users. Today, Technorati (a real-time search website for user-generated media, including weblogs, by tag or keyword and also providing popularity indexes) is currently tracking 112.8 millions blogs.

In 2002, in Romania (and also around the world) a new form of socializing was born: The Classmates (Colegi.ro). This website allowed users to connect with each other based on what school they graduated from, and to bring together colleagues who have not met for years so they could interact. In 2002, Friendster was also launched and they provided something unique to their users: the users had a circle of friends, which could interact with the circle of friends of other users. The concept was that a social community could exist among people that have common bonds.

In 2003, MySpace was released aiming to allow users to interact with each other through bulletins, groups, applications, instant messaging, video sharing, classifieds, news, forums and mobile usage. The idea of having virtual networking spaces became more and more in demand by the end of 2006, as MySpace registered 100 million users. LinkedIn was also released in 2003, and it aimed to offer a community for professionals looking for a job or simply networking with each other based on their professional interests. It is based on connections between the individual user and groups and users with other users. Someone can join multiple groups of interest on a certain topic and be updated with news from that group. Also, the professional profile or CV can be uploaded in order for other interested users to see someone’s working experience and skills if interested in collaboration or a working relation. Users can require and/or provide references for other users based on previous experiences in working with the individual. The types of groups include: colleagues from the same University, working place, and business partners or professor-student collaboration. As of 2010, Linkedin has 80 million users.

With all the different social network systems described above, the form and “package” differ from provider to provider but have one common, central nominator: people interacting with each other, socializing and communicating. Due to technological developments and the increasing demand for experiencing other forms of interaction supported by Web 2.0 platform, YouTube was released in 1995 to the public providing a website where people could share and watch other’s people videos, post comments, make communities, channels and do video blogging. Video categories include: animal videos, self-made artistic videos, how-to videos covering topics from how to tighten a screw or a bolt to how to build a bomb. In 2010, YouTube’s traffic counts 2 billion unique videos views per week.

In 2006, Twitter was developed and currently has more than 100 million users. Twitter is compared to “microblogging” allowing users to exchange messages (of a maximum of 140 characters) in real time when an Internet connection is available or as SMS (message sent via text messaging on a cell phone) when no Internet connection is available. Twitter supports updates among users in real time, based on categories of interest. Each person who “tweets” (writes messages on the Twitter social network system) has a list of friends called “followers”. A user can follow another user, which means they receive a feed “tweets” made by the user they are following. The same user could also be followed by another user as well, based on his or her personal interest and preferences. Twitter became popular because people do not need a computer to use it, because any Smart phone (i.e. HTC, iPhone, BlackBerry, Nokia, etc) can support a Twitter application and receive updates between the users in real time with or without an Internet connection.

In 2004, Facebook was developed, which was originally aimed to be a closed circuit among Harvard students for networking purposes among themselves. In 2011, Facebook is the current leader of social networking with over 800 million registered users. Facebook was not an unknown invention or phenomenon because MySpace and other platforms provided similar services. However, Facebook became the most successful one. Users set up their own account free of charge with the provider, and they started building relations with people they knew or did do not know. The friends of a user’s friends could “become friends” with the account holder (or in other words, have access to their account information/public page). Using this platform, users can exchange information, news, photos, files, sell/buy products, chat, play games or send messages instead using a classic email client such MSN or Yahoo. For users, it could be more convenient to send messages to other users or people in their “friends list” or to all of them at the same time, rather then sending messages individually and manually like in MSN and Yahoo’s case. The social interactions between an account holder and the people on his “friends list” can float freely without the receiving person needing to be online to acknowledge or interact in anyway in real time. The receiving person can login to their Facebook account and see the social activities and messages after they have occurred.

 

All these Social Networking opportunities brought people around the world together, borderless, in real time, sometimes with anonymity. All these features among others, make social networking so popular, so present in our lives but nonetheless so important for their “creators” in order to generate revenue in exchange to their users’ preferences, information, interaction. Most of these platforms are offered for “free” and nothing beats free. But actually those platforms and services are not for free as the main “fuel”  is exactly the users’ personal information, thoughts, interaction which generate trends, opinions, preferences so useful to advertisers and commercial businesses which wanted to find a new “market”, a new way to precisely sell their products to a very targeted audience and cliental. This eagerness of knowing more and more about their users’ preferences can have influence on their privacy as well.

Stay tunned for the next post which describes the development of Popularity of Social Network Services Among Users.

Any questions can be submitted to: dan@e-crimeexpert.com

Additional information can be found at: www.e-crimeexppert.com

When did you first use the Internet? When did you first start to socialize online? Which was you first SNS? Do you remember the beginnings of online socializing? Have you ever thought that Facebook will become so popular?

Hit the “subscribe” button in order to be notified when new videos and Articles are posted on this blog.

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