Is a Grave Threat to Privacy:
Mandatory age verification is dangerous becauseit would require that even more personal information (about kids, no less) be putonline at a time when identity theft and privacy violations continue to be a majorconcern.
Will Seriously Misallocate Resources:
Devising and enforcing age verificationregulations might also divert valuable time and resources that could be betterused to focus on education and awareness-building efforts, especially K-12online safety and media literacy education. Moreover, it might divert lawenforcement energy and resources away from policing serious crimes or morelegitimate threats to children.
10 Questions about Age Verification that the AGs Must Answer
To the extent some policymakers persist in this pursuit of a technological HolyGrail, they must specifically address the ten following problems with mandatory ageverification regulation, which I believe explain why it will fail to protect children online:1)
The Risk Mismatch Problem
The ISTTF’s Research Advisory Board has shown that the primary online safetyissue today is peer-on-peer cyber-harassment, not adult predation. Mandatory ageverification would do nothing to stop cyberbullying. Indeed, the lack of adult supervisionmay even exacerbate the problem.2)
The Non-Commercial Speech Problem
Age verification schemes
commercial websites wheretransactions require the transfer of funds, goods, or services. Age verification may alsowork in those contexts (i.e., online dating services) where users
to be verified soothers know more about them. But most social networking sites (SNS) are non-commercial and users do not want to divulge too much personal information. This willsignificantly complicate AV efforts.3)
The Data Matching / Processing Problem (i.e., the “Initial Enrollment” Problem)
Online age verification efforts will likely break down first at the
Because little data exists to verify minors, age verification simply won’t work forsites where adults and minors coexist, or to keep adults out of “child-only” sites. Unlesswe want to force every child to carry a mandatory national ID card—which seems likean extreme and potentially dangerous solution—there isn’t an effective way of handlingthe initial authentication process.
I am indebted to Jeff Schmidt for the useful distinction between the initial enrollment and subsequentvisit problems with online age verification. See: Jeff Schmidt, “Online Child Safety: A SecurityProfessional’s Take,”