(BBC) A private members bill going through the House of Lords is calling for it to be mandatory for web retailers to adopt age verification systems. The bill on age-checking has the backing of charities who say it is too easy for children to buy alcohol, knives and violent video games online. A check on twelve sites found that thorough checks were not being done. The Online Purchasing of Goods and Services (Age Verification) Bill has been proposed by Baroness Massey and calls for "robust" checking systems to be used by any site selling age-restricted goods. The age-checking systems would have to be used if one of 20 separate products were sold including knives, alcohol, tobacco, age-restricted video games and DVDs, solvents and spray paints. Trading standards officers from Greenwich Council carried out tests on a number of websites to check their age verification processes. In a supervised test, a 16-year-old bought pre-paid credit cards and then went online to see if he could buy age-restricted goods with it. The credit card was registered with the minor's real date of birth and address. The teenager managed to buy knives, drink, and 18-rated DVDs and games from 12 separate online retailers.
(Berkman Center) Final Report of the Internet Safety Technical Task Force to the Multi-State Working Group on Social Networking of State Attorneys General of the United States. The Internet Safety Technical Task Force was created in February 2008 in accordance with the Joint Statement on Key Principles of Social Networking Safety announced in January 2008 by the Attorneys General Multi-State Working Group on Social Networking and MySpace. The scope of the Task Force's inquiry was to consider those technologies that industry and end users - including parents - can use to help keep minors safer on the Internet.
(The Register) A new social network website claiming to be a "Facebook for Kids" is riddled with security shortcomings, security researchers at Cambridge University have warned. The site - School Together Now - said that it took security seriously and promised to review the findings of the Cambridge researchers. See also
Think of the children by Joseph Bonneau Cambridge University Light Blue Touchpaper blog.
(New York Times) Law enforcement officials want popular sites, like the social network MySpace, to confirm the identities and ages of minors and then allow the young Web surfers to talk only with other children, or with adults approved by parents. But performing so-called age verification for children is fraught with challenges. Nevertheless, over the last year, at least two dozen companies have sprung up with systems they claim will solve the problem. Surprisingly, their work is proving controversial and even downright unpopular among the very people who spend their days worrying about the well-being of children on the Web.
(NetFamilyNews) by Anne Collier. "ISTTF" stands for Internet Safety Technical Task Force, the result of an agreement last January between 49 state attorneys general (minus Texas) and MySpace. The emphasis is on the word "technical," because the attorneys general basically charged the task force, of which I'm a member, with reviewing technical solutions to online youth risk - "age verification" technology being their stated predetermined solution of choice. Why? Because they're law enforcement people. They deal with crime - not all these other subjects that have come up in online-youth and social-media research - so they probably feel that this is all about crime and technology, so some technology that separates adult criminals from online kids, or that somehow identifies every American on the Web, is what will make the Internet safe for youth. See also Age Verification Debate Continues; Schools Now at Center of Discussion (Progress & Freedom Foundation) by Adam Thierer and State attorneys general push online child safety snake oil by Chris Soghoian.
(ISTTF) Tuesday, September 23, 9:00 am - 5:00 pm, Wednesday, September 24, 9:00 am - 12:00 pm Ropes Gray Room, Pound Hall, Harvard Law School. The Internet Safety Technical Task Force (ISTTF) is a group of Internet businesses, non-profit organizations, academics, and technology companies that have joined together to identify effective tools and technologies to create a safer environment on the Internet for youth. It was created in February 2008 in accordance with the Joint Statement on Key Principles of Social Networking Safety announced by the Attorneys General Multi-State Working Group on Social Networking and MySpace in January 2008. The scope of the ISTTF?s inquiry is to consider those technologies that industry and end users can utilize to keep children and youth safe on the Internet, with a focus on preventing harmful contact with adults and with other minors. On September 23rd and 24th, 2008 the Berkman Center will host a day and a half-long public meeting of the Internet Safety Technical Task Force at Harvard Law School. This meeting will be an opportunity for members of the public to learn about the work of the Task Force, to explore the different technology-related problems and solutions under consideration, and to raise questions and share ideas. The day's agenda will include over a dozen presentations of youth online safety solutions based on a range of technologies, including age verification, biometrics, filtering and auditing, text analysis, and combinations thereof. Additionally, on Wednesday, September 24, participants are invited to hear presentations by leading social network sites regarding recent measures they have undertaken to make their sites safer for youth.
(Internet News) A Microsoft white paper suggesting that children get digital identity cards to verify their age and better protect them online. But not everyone is convinced it's the right approach. "It's not 100 percent clear to me that there's a compelling reason to validate the age of kids going to a social networking site," Larry Magid, a technology journalist, child safety advocate and member of the Internet Safety Task Force (ISTF), told InternetNews.com. "Is the solution going to be worse than the problem?" Microsoft's suggestion came in response to the ISTF's call for solutions. The plan would require that government, schools, or private companies certify children's identities and ages based on personal documents like birth certificates.
(Guardian) Nearly a quarter of children between the ages of eight and 12 are evading the age restrictions imposed by social networking sites Facebook, Bebo and MySpace, a poll of young people revealed. The results suggest that more than 750,000 children are illicitly using the sites - which are supposed to be limited to teenagers and adults - potentially exposing them to risky communications with strangers. The poll of 1,000 children was commissioned by Garlik, an online information company, which said parents are responding by secretly logging on to their children's social networking pages to detect any reckless online behaviour.