Just a season ago, Google's aspirations to make products like Search and YouTube more kid-friendly were only rumors. But now, with a new initiative in place to make those aspirations a reality, Google is ready to talk about what the changes could mean to its services and how they'll benefit kids.
Pavni Diwanji, vice president of the kid-centric initiative, told USA Today that Google expects the campaign to be controversial. But as kids already have access to Google's services at home and in school, the more prudent approach appears to be putting measures in place to ensure the technology is leveraged by youths in better fashion.
News of Google's plans to draw up kid-friendly version of services like YouTube and Gmail first re-surfaced back in August. The reports stated Google intended to equip the services with parental controls, giving guardians control over what information their minors could share and access.
There is a potential for controversy to arise out of the Google's initiative, as children under the age of 13 are protected by the Federal Trade Commission's Children's Online Privacy Protection Act, or COPPA. The 1998 act protects minors from data mining and targeted advertising, unless parental consent has been given.
"We want to be thoughtful about what we do, giving parents the right tools to oversee their kids' use of our products," says Diwanji. "We want kids to be safe, but ultimately it's about helping them be more than just pure consumers of tech, but creators, too."
There is currently an ongoing effort to get technology companies to swear off misusing data collected on minors. The Future of Privacy Forum and the Software & Information Industry Association have drafted the Pledge to Safeguard Student Privacy, calling on technology firms to commit to the responsible use of information collected from minors.
The Pledge to Safeguard Student Privacy covers minors from kindergarten to high school. The pledge is an important step to getting technology firms to state clear privacy policies that respect the data obtained form minors, according to Keith R. Krueger, CEO of the Consortium for School Networking (CoSN), a group that helps school leaders leverage technology for better education.
"Parents, policymakers and educators want clear and consistent privacy policies, and they need their service providers to not only comply with privacy laws, but also to be leaders by publicly outlining how they will protect all student data -- transparency leads to trust," said Krueger.
Note: This story was updated to correct the name of the Consortium for School Networking group.