Dark Reading is part of the Informa Tech Division of Informa PLC

This site is operated by a business or businesses owned by Informa PLC and all copyright resides with them.Informa PLC's registered office is 5 Howick Place, London SW1P 1WG. Registered in England and Wales. Number 8860726.

Risk

2/2/2007
12:11 PM
50%
50%

How We Could Protect Pre-Teens Online

Are you familiar with COPPA, the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act? It's a worthy bill, aimed at preventing the online collection of personal information from children under 13 years of age. What most people don't know is, it's turned out to be rather cumbersome for companies to comply with. The result has been that there are few social networking sites which provide a safe place from pre-teens to hang out and chat.

Are you familiar with COPPA, the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act? It's a worthy bill, aimed at preventing the online collection of personal information from children under 13 years of age. What most people don't know is, it's turned out to be rather cumbersome for companies to comply with. The result has been that there are few social networking sites which provide a safe place from pre-teens to hang out and chat.COPPA's regulations mandate certain things in a Web site's privacy policy, when parental consent is required, and what a site's responsibilities are when they offer services to those under 13. Sure, children can simply lie about their age to register. Any many do, as a trip to MySpace will quickly prove. Interestingly, if you look deeper within the profile pages at MySpace and other similar sites, you'll often find that kids tell their true ages, which are often lower than the minimum required to register.

What I'm proposing is, what if we encourage kids of a certain age to gather together and chat in appropriately monitored venues (not necessarily MySpace, but other, as yet unestablished sites)? If done correctly, it could provide safe gathering places where kids can gather completely separated from the sometimes sewer-like atmosphere of the sites used by high-schoolers and young adults.

Here's my idea: What if the minimum age wasn't the gating factor, but that the controls allowed only children of a certain age group to talk together. For example, you couldn't be older than 14 to talk to kids between 10-14 and you could effectively block kids who were younger than that from using a site. And let's say you didn't need to install software on you own PC to do that, that this would be universal. No child could get on an inappropriate site via any computer. How? It's a controversial idea, but one that needs to be discussed: the Social Security number.

If this idea is implemented properly, a child's identity won't be compromised. "This could be easily done via a third-party government agency," Brandon Watson, founder of IMSafer, told me in my investigation into this issue. IMSafer is software and a service that monitors IM traffic for text that's likely coming from (or going to) a predator or pedophile, and sends an e-mail alert to the person who set up the service.

"The idea could be, for a particular site, that if you want to sign up, you enter in your Social Security Number, and maybe one other identifier, say your town, to ensure the number is not a duplicate," Watson said. "Say the service might have a rule for that site that a user has to be older than 16. The service wouldn't store it, wouldn't do anything but say yea or nay."

There it is, as easy as pie. A simple approved/not approved solution. Every time your kid wanted to register, he or she would go through the process through this third party, the site would be apprised of his or her approval status, and admittance would be gained or denied. Same for the predators.

Of course, there is worry that the numbers would be stored, stolen, etc. But I am afraid that all the lawsuits against social networking sites, all the Congressional hearings, and all the good intentions in the world are not going to be as effective a solution. Just asking the predators for their birth dates isn't a solution. Remember, they are bad guys, and bad guys lie. There is a solution. We now need to implement the technology and the rules to make it do exactly what we want it to do: Protect children without compromising their privacy.

Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Comments
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View
News
Inside the Ransomware Campaigns Targeting Exchange Servers
Kelly Sheridan, Staff Editor, Dark Reading,  4/2/2021
Commentary
Beyond MITRE ATT&CK: The Case for a New Cyber Kill Chain
Rik Turner, Principal Analyst, Infrastructure Solutions, Omdia,  3/30/2021
Register for Dark Reading Newsletters
White Papers
Video
Cartoon
Current Issue
2021 Top Enterprise IT Trends
We've identified the key trends that are poised to impact the IT landscape in 2021. Find out why they're important and how they will affect you today!
Flash Poll
How Enterprises are Developing Secure Applications
How Enterprises are Developing Secure Applications
Recent breaches of third-party apps are driving many organizations to think harder about the security of their off-the-shelf software as they continue to move left in secure software development practices.
Twitter Feed
Dark Reading - Bug Report
Bug Report
Enterprise Vulnerabilities
From DHS/US-CERT's National Vulnerability Database
CVE-2021-3493
PUBLISHED: 2021-04-17
The overlayfs implementation in the linux kernel did not properly validate with respect to user namespaces the setting of file capabilities on files in an underlying file system. Due to the combination of unprivileged user namespaces along with a patch carried in the Ubuntu kernel to allow unprivile...
CVE-2021-3492
PUBLISHED: 2021-04-17
Shiftfs, an out-of-tree stacking file system included in Ubuntu Linux kernels, did not properly handle faults occurring during copy_from_user() correctly. These could lead to either a double-free situation or memory not being freed at all. An attacker could use this to cause a denial of service (ker...
CVE-2020-2509
PUBLISHED: 2021-04-17
A command injection vulnerability has been reported to affect QTS and QuTS hero. If exploited, this vulnerability allows attackers to execute arbitrary commands in a compromised application. We have already fixed this vulnerability in the following versions: QTS 4.5.2.1566 Build 20210202 and later Q...
CVE-2020-36195
PUBLISHED: 2021-04-17
An SQL injection vulnerability has been reported to affect QNAP NAS running Multimedia Console or the Media Streaming add-on. If exploited, the vulnerability allows remote attackers to obtain application information. QNAP has already fixed this vulnerability in the following versions of Multimedia C...
CVE-2021-29445
PUBLISHED: 2021-04-16
jose-node-esm-runtime is an npm package which provides a number of cryptographic functions. In versions prior to 3.11.4 the AES_CBC_HMAC_SHA2 Algorithm (A128CBC-HS256, A192CBC-HS384, A256CBC-HS512) decryption would always execute both HMAC tag verification and CBC decryption, if either failed `JWEDe...