If they do a bad job at creating and servicing products which draw people to the site, people will not go there and Google will not make money. So, is gmail 'not a product'? No, that's absurd.
I've worked on Google Search for several years, and I can assure you that neither I nor most colleagues I know see things this way. I can't think of a single example where our search results have changed or not changed based on how it would affect Adwords customers. I personally believe that most of our products designed for end users work this way. Even many people I've talked to working on advertising see a large part of their job as improving the advertising experience rather than just revenue.
Within search at least, the issue of customer service is scale. It's a challenging problem with millions of users. We do a good bit already, through feedback forms, staffed U2U groups, video questions and answers, and other venues. We recognize that not everyone can share information on a forum either, and so some of these feedback forms are private.
Gmail does the same, although I'm less familiar with their support offerings. A good starting point might be http://mail.google.com/support/. I'd imagine Google+ will grow in terms of it's forms of feedback and support, and the team seems to be quite responsive on a number of issues already. http://www.google.com/support/+/ might also be a good starting point there.
I'm not familiar enough to comment on the original issue, but I would guess that this has more to do with law in the US, specifically COPPA, the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act. IANAL.
Customer service per dollar spent is lower than anywhere else on earth.
(in case you are not)
Yes Google sells user to their paying customers -- advertisers. How do you think they make all those billions of dollars / year? Why are they providing you with free Gmail, Maps, and high quality search results? The answer is that they sell you to their customers. If you are in gmail and sent your mom an email telling her what kind of printer cartridges to buy, don't be surprised if you see an ad about printer cartridges. They indirectly sold your data "interested in printer cartridges" to their "real" customer -- the company that makes printer cartridges and is looking for someone to buy them.
It was a clever comment but it's an oversimplification.
"Use the forum".
Yes Google, that's a sound idea, why don't I post a bunch of a business proprietary information on your user forum...brilliant.
A little over a week ago we had a user post a Wormwall to Reddit and it had something like 130 thousand requests in a couple of hours. Because Google (unbeknownst to us) caps GAE accounts to 12 instances, we ended up scaling to precisely 12 instances, then crapping out. A full 60% of requests to our site were not even served.
I know, I'll get on the GAE site and look up some kind of professional support number, or email address or something. Nothing. A few hours of banging around (all while our site was literally catching fire) and I finally found a form where I can request an increase in instances.
9 days later? Nothing. No response. No increase in instance cap. No communications whatsoever. A complete and total black hole.
It's so absurd it's ridiculous.
That basically means you guys are successful or at least more than the others. ;p
We're definitely too small for that scheme and so are many folks. The funny thing is that our recent traffic spike would have gone over our free quota (easily), so we would have ended up paying Google some money for the scaling. But because of the ridiculous instance cap we never even hit the top of our free quota that day.
Incidentally, their TOS says:
This Service is provided to individuals who are at least 18 years old or minors who have parental permission to open and maintain an account.
Which seems much more reasonable.
Great clause you found. Hope they honor that one, and change/remove other contradictory clauses.
(edit: fix italics)
If I fat-finger some signup form somewhere, or my stupid cousin decides to play a prank on me with my signed-in Google account, or something else bad happens unrelated to this "underage"/COPPA policy, I have no recourse to recover from a lockout?
That's stupid, and impacts something very important to me. While Google may or may not get any money from my use of Android, they are (by their own hand) accountable for my experience there, which includes not ever being irrevocably locked out of the "cloud" resources that the phone depends upon.
Probably $0. Guess how much time should Google wants to spend providing you with tech support? Probably 0 (unless you manage to create negative PR then not supporting you might cost them some bad karma so then it is cheaper to just have someone call you and fix your issue).
Expecting to get something for nothing is unrealistic. To Google you are just one of hundreds of millions of users whose surfing habits and email account usage they indirectly sell to their real paying customers. If you wants technical service you have to pay for it.
Google would provide good customer support if they cared about maintaining goodwill with the public. And, looking at some other replies here, it seems they do try (to some extent). They're not stupid.
But articles and threads like these are a PR disaster, and they will hurt their bottom line in the long run. They do not want people switching to another search engine or telling their friends to boycott Google or Google's advertisers.
In any case, if that phone gets bricked, or requires being reset and associated with a "blank" google profile because of an erroneous and irreversible lockout on my current profile/account, the blame will squarely rest with Google. They're the 2nd most visible counterparty to my smartphone usage, and numero uno when it comes to data services.
The age limit of 13 seems pretty reasonable to me and if as a parent you think your kid is so mature (hint: he isn't) then it is definitely your responsibility to act as a guardian.
Google didn't make your son cry, you made your son cry. And that's fine, we all make our kids cry from time to time. Explain the mistake you made to your kid, figure out what to do in the future and move on.
Now that they're older (my son is 12 now) and really do have the sophistication to understand this distinction - and you're right, a 9yo or 11yo doesn't - they understand why we did that. But the key is, your 9yo and 11yo trust you, and should continue to do so. They don't care what you answer when signing them up for Google Mail - they don't even notice discrepancies of that nature. In the case they do, you tell them why you're doing it.
Google did most certainly make Alex cry - in exactly the same way that his hard drive crashing would have done so. Sure, ultimately it's the parents' fault, in a way, for letting him use fallible computer systems, and that in itself is probably a good lesson, but Google most certainly shares the blame here for boneheaded policies that don't even give parents the option of interceding. And the reason is the same as Google's reason always is: it was easier for Google.
The problem I have is with telling your kid: go ahead sign up and lie about your age. There's a huge difference between the parent taking the step of creating the account with a password known by the parent and telling the kid to go ahead and lie, which is what a lot of (probably childless) commenters suggest.
It's important to be clear that you're lying to a computer system, not another human being.
That will likely make parenting an absolute hell, but they'll be well-equipped for dealing with the adult world.
Yes no-one reads the ToS but by the same token we all know we take a risk when doing so. Google did nothing wrong in this instance, they just held the person to an entirely reasonable and fair condition of use.
That's like a criminal blaming a witness for them getting caught.
If the lie wasn't there nothing would have happened, you have to look at the root event, not what followed.
That inability to form contracts below a certain age actually protects children and is in their benefit, no-one should want it removed. Yes there are situations where it seems overkill but on balance it's a good thing.
So given that the law is reasonable it has not, as with most things with kids, fall back on the parents.
(Note: My understanding of the law is based on English law rather the US law but I'm guessing that something similar applies)
Imagine how badly you would fuck up your kid's life if you managed to really convince him that lying is some sort of abject horror. He would be eaten alive the instant he took a step outside of your home into the real world. When in your opinion is a kid ready for sophisticated reasoning about when to lie? Do you suggest waiting until well past their core formative years before suddenly going, "Hey, remember how I said if you lie you will go to jail? Yeah, about that..." Maybe even wait for their rebellious teenage years so that they get REALLY confused about how they're supposed to behave.
Kids are not as stupid as you seem to believe they are, and that's something coming from me since I believe kids are pretty damn stupid. I am not suggesting that they are ready for a university level psychology lecture, but by that point they will have been exposed to plenty of negative things that you should probably take some effort to explain. If your kids are not ready for at least a basic introduction to social reasoning at 10 then you haven't been doing a very good job at educating them.
Over the last 5 years, I've lied 5 times. I regret all of them except for one, and out of the moment reflection and hindsight allows me to say that everything would have been okay without having told any of them.
So come off it with this where-would-we-be-without-lying spiel.
(The most difficult thing is actually others' natural skepticism. How do you deal with that? "No, you don't get it. I don't lie.")
And if by some freak chance of fates you really have managed to go 5 years while for the most part only telling the truth, if you really are akin to a character out of a fairy-tale then I invite you to take a look at what Robert Greene says about lying in the "48 Laws of Power." You may not even understand how powerful a weapon you wield, and how much it may be hurting you, and those around you.
> So tell me again with 100% certainty that you have only lied 5 times in the past 5 years, that way at least I can be sure you can lie to yourself.
I'll go ahead and respond as if my initial impression were correct, though.]
> I have to wonder what you consider lying though.
I had a feeling the "subtleties of lying" thing was going to come up. I'll bite, but I think it's kind of a played out conversation. Maybe not the best use of the phrase. I might be clearer if I say instead that it just smells of the type of pseudo-philosophical discussions that come up within small groups, maybe after a beer or two, with the participants under the impression that it qualifies for profundity or, you know, being otherwise highly insightful in some way. You probably know the type. But I haven't taken part in any of these conversations that've come up yet, so like I said, I'll bite. :)
To give an example, the lie I mentioned that I don't regret involved an issue that came up with my friend's closed bank account after he moved to the opposite side of the world. Obviously, that kind of move can make getting to the resolution more difficult. The lie was me impersonating him to the customer service rep on the phone in order to avoid the latency of twelve-hour-turn based correspondence (at my friend's request).
That might give you some kind of idea of my threshold of "a lie". By most measures, I think, this would be seen as fairly benign one. (Having said that, it is the most benign of the bunch.)
> Have you ever purposefully […] misinterpreted what another person has was saying for your own benefit, or misrepresented it to someone else?
No. (Well, assuming that your "ever" refers to the last five years in consideration, and not actually "ever" as in... ever.)
> Have you ever […] accidentally misinterpreted what another person has was saying for your own benefit, or misrepresented it to someone else?
Even aware of how fickle pinning down the definition of "lying" is, I cannot think it possible for anyone except for the most unpleasant hardliners to consider such an accident to qualify as a lie. And I mean really, truly, genuinely "accidental", not haha-not-really-but-I-have-plausible-deniability-and-you-can't-very-well-prove-otherwise "accidental".
In instances where I feel I have unintentionally caused someone to misunderstand (or really, been a shitty communicator), I'm obligated to correct and explain better.
> Have you ever uttered an exaggeration that would be hard to distinguish from the truth?
Absolutely I have. A good chunk of my humor involves deadpan delivery, then the ensuing "hah, jk" types of motions. (My brother is quite a bit younger than me; when visiting my family and he's the mark, I will often literally say "jk". He's started countering with "jl".)
I don't know if it's a regional difference, but since my last move, I've found that people aren't as likely to be "in on it" (or are painfully slower to recognize) when the "hah, jk" part comes. This is--of course--not as fun, so I don't do it as often anymore.
> Have you ever presented your opinion as if it was fact?
I'm inclined to just say that matters of opinion are inherently opinionated, so I'm not sure I can conceive of anyone actually being able to do this, really. I admit I haven't tried to think very hard of any scenarios. Why kinds of opinionated statements can be made that could be presented (or misinterpreted) as a factual one?
> You may not even understand […] how much it may be hurting you, and those around you.
I think that's unlikely to have happened so far, or at least to much of an effect, but I wouldn't rule it out for eternity. I can definitely imagine some scenarios here where trying to maintain my current stance would probably be against my best interest/livelihood, although I don't put a lot of stock in those particular scenarios occurring.
Obviously, I have thought lying to be the better approach at some points (otherwise my count would be 0 for the past five). Like I said, though, everything would would've worked out okay. I absolutely don't believe that a truthful response in any of my cases would've made a significant difference about where and how I'm sitting right now.
> I invite you to take a look at what Robert Greene says about lying in the "48 Laws of Power."
Not my kind of literature, but I had a look at an overview http://www2.tech.purdue.edu/cg/courses/cgt411/covey/48_laws_...
Some of those seem to be decently okay advice (law 45, the first part of 39, 26 in name), but for the most part (law 7, 12, 24, 32, last part of 39), it seems it would have been better described as "how to be a selfish dick and perpetuate misery".
To start of, let's not ignore how you decided to omit the lie of omission from your point by point response to my post. That is already quite telling of your tone, and could humorously enough be construed to be a lie of omission.
You are quick to dismiss my points as pseudo-philosophical without actually explaining why you may believe that, or what sort of reasoning you use to dismiss them. Regarding your example I can see that your threshold of lying lies at the definition of "direct lie," which is certainly the easiest to detect. However, there are many other types of lies, each of which serve important roles in the properly functionality of our society. You could easily discover this on your own if you didn't dismiss perfectly valid resources because at first glance they appear to describe "how to be a selfish dick and perpetuate misery."
For instance, you are quick to deem an accidental lie to be outside the scope of acceptable definitions of lying. For some reason you only consider something a lie if you are actually aware of it. However, while intention is certainly a part of lying, it is by no means the most important. A lie is simply an untruthful statement, regardless if you mean for it to deceive someone. I will agree that trying to correct yourself in these cases is certainly a remedy, but that hinges on you understanding that you have caused someone to misunderstand something, which may not always be the case.
Regarding your "hah, jk," will you honestly say that even in situations where it would be socially awkward or even unacceptable? "Thank you for the food, it was very good... hah, jk, that was one of the most bland meals I have ever eaten" or "You look good, that shirt does not make you look fat at all... hah, jk, you should go get liposuction." Going back to the point I made originally, lying is literally a core part of our culture, you may not even notice when you are doing it since telling the truth can often be amazingly insulting.
Presenting opinions as facts is probably just as common as the lie of exaggeration. It may be something as simple as presenting yourself as an expert when you are not; perhaps you have tried to explain a complex scientific theory without a full understanding of the material in question. Even if the actual content of your description is accurate, you have lied in acting as if you are a knowledgeable expert in the field. Or maybe if you are are asked to provide a design a work to replace an aging system, and you decide to do your work without actually understanding why and how the previous design functioned, and what limitations it was meant to overcome. Really, any situation where you act as an expert without actually being one qualifies for this category. Again, this is actually very common in the business world. You seldom have the time necessary to familiarize yourself with all the relevant material, yet cannot run the risk of appearing unqualified or incompetent by using looser terms like, "In my opinion X" or "I think Y" in place of "X is Y."
You are actually right when you say that you hurting someone with truth is unlikely to have happened so far, but for a wholly different reason than the one you present. Returning yet again to my original point, you are probably not even consciously aware of all the lies you say day in and day out, simply because you do not consider them lies. To you these things are part of your social strata; you say them because not doing so could be offensive. During your childhood your were exposed time and again to situations where lying was acceptable, you may in fact have been punished for not lying at times. That leads back to the point I was trying to make in my original post. You must be cautious when teaching a child about lying, since lying is simply a part of our society.
I really don't know what all the claims in your first paragraph are all about, though something else you say gives me the idea of an explanation for some of it.
> To start of, let's not ignore how you decided to omit the lie of omission from your point by point response to my post.
> You are quick to dismiss my points as pseudo-philosophical[…]
Ah. This, maybe. But no, I'm afraid you've misunderstood and not in a way that I feel I'm equipped to address now without sacrificing brevity or comfort.
> Regarding your "hah, jk," will you honestly say that even in situations where it would be socially awkward or even unacceptable?
Although you might take some glee in putting those words in my mouth (and with some truly terrible material, at that), no.
There's more to be said for the rest of it, but my heart's not in it to counter at this point, especially since much of it would deal with addressing so many frivolities. Unfortunately, my inclination to do so is likely to come at a time when my ability to reply here is dead and the attention has moved elsewhere.
Do note that I'm not very excited at the prospects of giving the appearance of backing down.
> "Thank you for the food, it was very good... hah, jk, that was one of the most bland meals I have ever eaten"
> In instances where I feel I have unintentionally caused someone to misunderstand (or really, been a shitty communicator), I'm obligated to correct and explain better.
How's this for putting words in your mouth? I have spent well over an hour writing a in depth analysis of your posts, describing my thought process, and theorizing on what I believe to be your thought process. At this point I am confident that I may flat out call you out on a lie perpetrated during this very discussion; you stated you are obligated to clear up any misunderstandings, and are now flat out refusing to do so due to "brevity and comfort." Clearly your so called obligations don't amount to much.
Oh, and perhaps you should learn to differentiate between "Asking a question" and "Putting words in my mouth." If I ask whether you will honestly consider something to be true, I'm looking for an insightful answer (Longer than one word usually), not suggesting that you do or do not. Instead, you are presenting a series of inconsistent, unsubstantiated claims, half formed thoughts, and backing all that up with an obvious disinterest in anything resembling an attempt at allowing me to understand you. After I gave you countless examples of various magnitudes you could use for counter-examples that is really quite rude.
In hindsight it should have been obvious since your original dismissive reply, but I was still holding on to the vain hope that as a poster on HN you would have slightly more dedication to communication than an average redditor. The idea that there is something to back down from really crystallizes the difference; you appear to think this is some argument which one of us could win, while I am trying my best to understand you and point out where I feel you are contradicting yourself or reality. Sure, I may be doing it in a rude fashion, but again, I do so in response to what I perceive to be a hostile tone, for reasons I described in my previous post.
In short, I don't care in the slightest whether you think you are backing down or not; I feel that this entire exchange was a complete waste on my part since you clearly had no interest in attempting to clear up any of the misunderstandings that obviously exist between us. Thank you for allowing both of us to waste our time, and I apologize for have participated in this farce of a discussion.
But then, I've never had difficulty lying when it was convenient, so I'm probably not the best to ask.
While I have not raised kids, I do not see why that should factor into the discussion. Your comment suggests that you are operating under the assumption that experience is the only thing that confers ability. However, you may have noticed at some point in your life that we are quite good at obtaining knowledge via the traditional means of learning from the archived experience of others. Arguably even better than learning by first hand experience, though that is up for debate. I have studied various aspects of (adult and child) psychology and sociology to satisfy my urge to understand humanity, and my thoughts on the matter are based on that gained knowledge.
While I agree that experience can lead to new insights, and can result in a more optimal utilization of your own knowledge, it is certainly not required to actually discuss a matter. Maybe the lack of practical experience would be more notable if I were trying to suggest some sort of novel ideas, but I am just stating something which has been seen time and again throughout the ages; what skills are necessary to be successful, and how to impart them to your offspring.
As you may imagine, I have spent some time trying to understand why some people raise their kids to be successful, and why others fail horribly at the act. It does not take spending 20 years to see a pattern of success or failure emerging with the application of certain techniques. So to more directly answer your question, my opinions based neither of my own experience, nor on my understanding of how kids "should" be raised. Instead, my views are based on the mass of information I have seen and read on the topic, and the trends that clearly exhibit themselves in that data.
Going further, I actually find that relying on any long term experience can at times make the results somewhat suspect. While experiencing something several times can help you understand it all the better, once you spent a better part of two decades practicing something you will almost certainly be convinced that you are doing everything correctly. To admit otherwise would be to admit your own failings which few people are willing to do, especially in an area as sensitive as child rearing. This leads to the surprisingly common situation wherein an "authority" who is trusted to make the right decisions acts contrary to the accepted scientific norms of the time. Take for example a grandmother that raised 8 children, and will expound for hours on the necessity of beatings to raising healthy and successful kids. I am sure most of the HN readers can think of a lot of other examples of this in a myriad of fields.
Obviously though, neither you, nor anyone else should make fundamental decisions regarding how to raise your child based on something some guy on the Internet said. A responsible parent should spent at least as much time as I have reading the material relevant to the topic in order to make informed decisions. What more, if it appears to a somewhat informed person that you have not done this basic work, they should, as I have with the GGP, point out the flaws in your reasoning without having to wade through comments disqualifying their opinion simply because they have not actually put what they have read into practice. If you have issues with what I said, then by all means please present them, and the supporting arguments, for me to discuss or concede as necessary, but do not for a second think that you can discount me from the discussion simply because I do not adhere to the strict experience requirements that you feel are necessary before even think about the topic.
But I agree with you that the headline is melodramatic, incorrect and irrelevant to any meaningful discussion about Google or its services. Kid should have lied.
Should < 13 year olds not be allowed to use 'general purpose' means of communication such as telephones or, god forbid, snail mail?
Your say your children have friends; I assume you don't gag them when they're around each other, or when they go to school? Then they're communicating. They're being exposed to complex social hierarchies, news, rumors, fact, and fiction, and being forced to make judgement calls. It's the same people and the same information you're "protecting" them from by keeping them off social networking. They're going to get their feelings hurt. They might hurt somebody's feelings. They're going to do stupid things. That's life.
Parents absolutely have a right and a responsibility to provide guidance. But how does anybody learn any skill besides doing it poorly for a while? Did your parents keep you away from a keyboard until one day you were magically old enough to know how to type?
I may be a minority, but I believe experience > age.
The properly examined overprotective option is to use a service that doesn't require such age restrictions.
And I fail to see any situation where teaching a 9 year old that its sometimes ok to lie won't be incredibly confusing to the child: the child cannot differentiate between lieing here, and lieing about homework, or cheating on a test. Their brains can't do that yet. To tell them to lie here, but no where else, is confusing, and in an extension, is cruel.
"Google ... plans to cut him off from his family until he's 13."
First, take a deep breath. Then, get another email address that you can control, and back it up. See if the grandparents still have copies of their correspondence for the kid to read. Use this as an opportunity to teach the importance of backing up data that is important to you, and why you can't trust free online services to always look out for you.
Currently I'm in India, and today witnessed children sifting through open piles of garbage and panhandling in the middle of traffic. So it's kind of maddening to then witness the stunning lack of perspective these parents demonstrate when their child is temporarily cut off from site update emails and using chat to talk to them while sitting in the same room.
Yes, I understand the data loss making a 10 year old "enormously upset", but if these seemingly technically-savvy parents didn't yet realize the necessity of owning and managing data that is important to the family, then I'd hope that point isn't lost. In the time spent to write a hysterical blog and more responses in the comments, a simple solution to ensure this did not happen again could have been implemented.
It's important for children to understand that laws aren't written in stone and that if they dislike a law they can work to change it. Feeling helpless and acting helpless isn't in the best interest of anyone's child or our children's generation as a whole.
The point of civil disobedience is to get the law changed. By quietly lying about your age, you're doing the opposite, you're making it harder to get the law changed. Civil disobedience is about adding friction to the system as an incentive to change the law. By doing something nobody can notice you're adding grease.
It's not civil disobedience if nobody notices what you're doing. It's not civil disobedience if you aren't inconveniencing people in power.
By lying about your age, you're breaking the law purely for selfish benefit, which is not the lesson a parent wants to teach a child.
Sacrificing himself by following the law, and spreading the story widely as the author and his son have done will do much more to get the law changed.
The point of civil disobedience is to appeal to people's consciences, to call out a wrong far greater than your law-breaking, and to willingly open yourself to prosecution in order to make that point. (That's why Anonymous isn't committing civil disobedience until they turn themselves in and allow themselves to be on trial in order to call attention to the unalloyed benefit to society they seem to think they're providing.)
I don't see how Google's disallowing ten year olds to have Gmail accounts is a wrong: it seems more like a simple business decision in the face of a law that's designed to keep companies from preying on ten year olds by inundating them with marketing.
We all know the poster's child is special, but for all of the kids who aren't the offspring of übermenshen, this is a fight that maybe's not worth fighting.
My brother doesn't type fast, he doesn't know how to code python. He does immensely enjoy minecraft, and he does use google. Honestly, for him, the ability to find something using google, going through the immensely difficult task of correctly typing a search term and then parsing the search result is a massive achievement.
All that said, to suggest that he shouldn't be allowed his gmail account, given the immense amount of effort it took for him to learn to use it, is not something I'm willing to stomach.
Its part of the internet, and he is well and truly a member of the internet generation. Its something he should have every right to grow up immersed in.
That the internet is made of advertising is no reason to deny our children access.
Not really. The reason it seems fuzzy is that the modern US government likes to offload its regulations onto corporations and other entities. In the interest of "protecting" children, they subject online service providers to penalties for allowing children access. In turn, these services must restrict access by children in order to protect themselves from the government.
Thus, although the direct object of the action is Google -- a corporation -- it really is an act against the nanny state.
"... the face of a law that's designed to keep companies from preying on ten year olds by inundating them with marketing."
Then why ban 13 year-olds but allow mentally retarded 14 year-olds? Because this law, like all based on condition of birth, is about domination and control for political ends.
"People seem to have no idea what civil disobedience is."
It is breaking a law because you were born free. You don't have to have an axe to grind.
However, I definitely see your point that quietly lying about his age is likely not the best way to get the law changed.
My point was that if you see something that is obviously wrong and it's caused by a well intended law you have a responsibility to do something. I admit I'm something of a freedom zealot so my view on what corporations and especially the government can restrict you from doing is broad in general, but clearly this is a good learning opportunity about what to do if you're faced with a "buggy program" (aka a law).
"Research ... showed that young children cannot understand the potential effects of revealing their personal information; neither can they distinguish between substantive material on websites and the advertisements surrounding it. While some parents tried to monitor their children's use of the Internet services, many of them failed due to lack of time, computer skills, or awareness of risk. ... 'a Los Angeles television station reported that it obtained a detailed computer printout of the ages and addresses of 5,500 children living in Pasadena simply by sending $277 to a Chicago database firm.'"
(Yes, I am joking.)
If they can require my bank to double up on the login confirmations, they can require services to provide a reasonable way to let parents give their consent.
the only lesson is see coming out of this, if they go the route you are suggesting, is that civil disobedience is futile.
The internet is a cruel place, and hysteria about online predators aside, I think that the biggest risk to kids is from their own peer group. I recently encountered a fake profile on FB that was harassing high school kids, including a cousin, by spreading rumours about them. The rumours seemed silly to an adult, but the reactions of the victims on the perpetrator's wall were telling: begging, swearing, threatening (incidentally, Facebook's abuse system was pretty useless, I got the account killed because I figured out who the bully probably was, and dropped a few not-so-subtle-hints threatening to expose her). If teenagers are so distressed by online bullying, it would be worse for pre-teens.
I have sympathy for Alex and his parents, but I don't blame the law for blocking young children from accessing these services, especially social networking sites.
It should be up to the parents to monitor and regulate their kids' internet access. Parents not government has the responsibility of their children's welfare.
Some kids can be a bit more mature at a younger age, some don't.
Like many prohibition laws, this one won't work.
Morality aside: maintaining a fabrication is also not difficult for some people. You just need to make sure to think your lies through, and maintain two levels of backup explanations in case someone does poke their way through. Weaving details through primary and backup explanations can be difficult, but that's where practice comes in.
That's not to say that teaching kids that "lying is bad" isn't a noble goal, but you're going to have a really tough time convincing them when they can clearly see the benefits of it in their daily life (an extra cookie when Mom's out of the room, No detention because the dog ate their homework).
Perhaps a more realistic goal is to channel their learning into teaching the difference between lies.
But I think the whole argument is a bit of a "Red Herring" or is mostly irrelevant. The whole argument reeks of flame-war induced fallacies.
I figure that something happened like the following.
- Google enforces mail policies.
- kid cries.
- parents broken hearted, outraged, determined to share outrage
- article posted, misleading, overly emotional linkbait headline included
- internet response: "who cares, just lie"
- parent, embarrassed, defensive & still outraged, formulates weak knee-jerk rebuttal.
- internet response: "flame on"
Or they actually believe it. Which is a bit stupid, but hey, stupid people exist too. I don't think they're dumb, just caught up in the emotions that stir whenever you witness your own child crying.
However, I think you were voted down because it's difficult to find the line between a child making wise judgments within context and assuming they can lie in every scenario for their own benefit. That's a tricky one to walk, so it's better to play it safe until you're dead sure they can rationalize about the "real world." This is likely to be higher than age 10 for many kids.
Parent logs into his/her account, parent creates kid's account, parent states real age (10 years), parent expresses consent, child uses the new account. Is it that complex?
Because then when <insert bad thing> happens on the internet, the service provider gets blamed, even if the parent obviously should have been watching their child.
(Google Apps doesn't work with Google+ yet, but that will surely be fixed)
How do you prove that it's the kids parent thats giving this permission and not a random adult the kid asked to pretend being his parent?
> Why is that parents can't give consent to their young (<13y/o) child using Google account?
Because the parents probably have to provide written proof and it costs Google money to process such non-automated requests. You basically have millions of children below the age of 13. If everybody wanted to sign up their kids, Google would have to hire people to do nothing else than to just process the written or faxed permissions. Its way easier and cheaper to just exclude pre-13s from the service.
In the same way they "know" the kid is 13 because he happened to select that from a pop-up menu somewhere.
That is to say, why should that proof require rigor that doesn't exist in the original html form that got him into this mess in the first place?
So if I fat-finger my birthday when setting up google+ I'm going to have my gmail shut down until I can somehow prove to them I just messed up?
The only evidence they have he's less than 13 is his honest answer to their question. The only evidence the law holds them to is billing the parents a dollar, or really, just the assertion that they're an adult. Microsoft manages this for their online properties. Why can't Google? Because Google doesn't care to.
They generally get fined.
This is the law.
Managing and auditing a longer chain of responsibility, and setting up the rules for what happens if something in the chain becomes known to have been false, can be a royal pain both technically and legally (particularly when you consider that different countries have widely varying laws regarding who can be responsible for what, what rights there are to start with and what you can sign away, and so forth). The complications can multiply up very quickly once are considering more than one entity (the one that sets up the account and is claiming to be doing so truthfully), and once you allow chains like that you could have a chain of many people who each vouched for each other and each could be fake in some way.
Google is under no obligation to allow 13-year-olds on their service anyway, and I'm sure the age limit comes from legal restrictions, not just ageism on Google's part.
Fortunately, e-mail is already an open protocol, and you can get a working e-mail address anywhere. I understand the attraction of Gmail (it's free, user-friendly and offers a lot of storage) but it comes with some conditions; that's part of the deal.
However, the circumstances involved show why 13 years of age may be considered a reasonable minimum age for using Google's services, because the incident which sparked the account being locked was a 10 year old signing up for a social network designed with the assumption that its users would be capable of make sophisticated decisions regarding privacy and be reasonably able to detect ill intent or predatory behavior in an online environment.
While I can understand that the motives which led to the creation of the original email account were based on sound parenting and offered clear benefits for a child, it is hard to imagine sound rationales for giving a 10 year old unfettered access to a social network.
From email to social network there is a quantum leap in the level of sophistication required to safely navigate the service and I see Google's stance as not only justified but reasonable. The argument that it is ok to lie about one's age breaks pretty quickly - very few people are comfortable with 12 year old girls telling grown men they are 18.
Well, certainly that's the case with the law - as to Google policy, that's where you should correct me if I'm wrong.
Edit, on a side note, if the author is the poster here (or reads HN either way): I really like your writing. The story itself normally wouldn't make me care a huge amount (a short version is "a ten year old can't use a 13 and over service"), but I actually found myself really empathising and feeling upset on his behalf.
Question is: written to whom? What is the channel for that?
There seems to be none. No way to explain and no recourse. And that's why we can't have nice things.
This was 4-5 years ago, though. I pretty much got used to lying about my age everywhere (every PHPBB forum had the same age-confirmation form before the registration process, for example), and I guess this kid probably will too. It'll be annoying for him when he actually does turn 13 and has to figure out how to change his DOB on sites (a lot of which don't let you).
My 2012 project is going to be to quit gmail somehow and get back to imap with local storage.
Why not buy the kid his own domain name and teach him how to set it up and use a local email program (Thunderbird?)
The tools to do local mail hosting, IMAP, webmail, etc. all exist. From personal experience, configuring them is a pain in the backside if you're not an experienced sysadmin, which of course includes almost everyone. If that could be overcome, the tech is there.
As for hosting, there are various blog platforms where you have a choice between hosting the code yourself, either on your own machine or on a system included with your personal ISP account, or using a site such as wordpress.com where they do the maintenance and in some cases charge money for extras but the software and data formats are basically the same. I see no reason a similar model couldn't work for e-mail, and if a particular e-mail platform started to take off, there is no reason for ISPs not to support it locally; most of them have always offered some sort of included e-mail mailbox and webmail facility anyway, just not of the calibre of Google Mail and not necessarily easily compatible with other systems.
Basically, I think the problems with a better solution that doesn't leave you at the mercy of a big organisation like Google are genuine but not insurmountable. It's more about usability and standardisation/interoperability than about technical issues.
So I certainly think it makes sense to give out real data, iff you plan to use the service as intended.
That said, the bigger problem is that Google happily accepted his date of birth in Google+, added it to the Google account and afterwards locked him out of every Google service. That's crap. And it just proves once more how Google aggregates all the data about you. If I fill in an innocent field on a 'fun' service, should it really have consequences for (or even be connected to) my main online identity?
Of course, I didn't fake my interests/gender/etc. but I've never been in the habit of storing age/location info with a private service; it's available publicly anyway, but you have to use inductive reasoning to link the data. If you want people to know your birthday, I don't see why you can't just tell them in person or email or whatever and leave the "official" fake birthday what it is.
This could be fixed by using the correct date but putting an earlier year.
Well said, I think the most worrying part is that google didn't even warn us it was going to use this information across all its services, this is the first time I'm actually disappointed by google.
I've been using January 1st, 1975 as my birthday ever
since I started using the internet
I press page down a few times when I tab to the year field myself!
Link for those who don't know what I'm on about: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R4vkVHijdQk
I have purchased the cheapest Linode VPS for this particular reason. I tried Live Mail (the Windows Application) with IMAP and it's really cool. The editor is also better than the Gmail one. I'll miss some features, but it's okay.
Seriously, if you don't want to get hurt, get a VPS or a dedicated. It's not expensive. You host your emails, websites, repositories and everything. You do scheduled backups to Amazon S3 and you are just fine.
I'm going to write about how awesome a dedicated server is, once I complete setting up my server and create my blog.
P.S. - Verbal authorization won't do! The permission has to be given in the form of a fax, credit card number, digitally signed email, or via a toll-free telephone number.
TechCrunch article on the same along with Google's BS response: http://techcrunch.com/2011/05/09/attention-dear-sophie-inspi...
I'm sure I remember seeing an google advert recently (in the UK) where a father sends emails to his child over several years for the child to receive when they're old enough to use email - and I'm sure the child's email was a gmail account (I may be mistaken, though).
Banks are regulated by laws that restrict certain arms of their businesses from collaborating too closely (particularly sharing financial information) and I don't think Google should be any different). Was it ok for Google to associate the information entered in a Google profile to shut down his child's email?
The problem with this system is that honest people are penalized and liars are not punished. Regardless of how this man handles the situation, that is not something I would like to face as a parent, to have my child punished for being honest and having to choose between social justice through lying (the child clearly has parent supervision and approval) and letting the child become embittered for losing a significant part of their digital identity (I'd recommend using offlineimap next time though).
What an appalling user experience—and on so many levels. It should have at least warned him that by setting his age he was in violation of the TOS.
He joined Google+ and _could_ optionally add a day of birth, because - well. You want your friends in a social network to post 'All the best' or whatever. So he provided this option freely, to share it with his circles of friends.
Not to link it to his main online identity. I don't think that it is obvious that there's a neat 'Hah! Another one entered his DOB in Google+ and is < 13, let's shut him out' trigger.
A human exhibiting this same behavior - peeking in his or her customers' windows to see if they're technically
violating terms of service in their private lives - would have been called a nosy busybody.
This is a major reason to avoid Google services. They are learning to better simulate a company that cares about privacy, but it's all still Big Brother at the back end.
Also, they operate with this age requirement even for people who don't live in and have never been to the country where this law exists.
Avoids COPPA hassles and issues with deletion.
Note: I worked on this issue for a Fortune 100 company when COPPA was passed.
On the internet you can and should lie, cheat and steal, just don't harm real people.
Nobody would be complaining (other than the usual light grumbling) if the lockout message had been something like this: "Parent permission required! Our records show that you are not yet 13, so we have blocked access to your account. To restore access: If you are at least 13, click here to send proof of that. If you are under 13, have a parent or guardian click here to link your account to theirs and accept the terms of service on your behalf."
IANAL, so I don't know if he technically would not be allowed to access Google Takeout either via the TOS, but if Google's lawyers could incorporate an exception of some sort for age-based violations, then this would at least be a super nice thing for them to do.
I have not paid much attention to these laws. Thinking back, though, I think I should not have been spending too much time playing around on computers, but enjoying playing outside.
Other than that, it really does suck but it's not a quick or easy fix.
This is what it says:
"Hey ho. Commenting here because I feel chased out of my own blog. I'm trying to figure out if I want to write a follow-up blog post, and if so, what I would write in it. More importantly, who would I be writing it for? There may be some catharsis for me in writing a response, but it would also involve me stewing in asshat soup for even longer while I composed it.
The main thing I would want to clarify is that the technical problems are not actually the heart of the matter for me. Being responsible parents, we set Alex's email up in such a way that we get copies of all his incoming messages. We can probably reconstruct large chunks of his correspondence to date. I'm not even sure if Alex thinks of email as a long-term thing, though. He archives messages, but I don't know if he considers them anything other than ephemeral.
Secondly, we can set him up with a new email account somewhere else. No problem. Offline, IMAP, webmail, whatever. That's easy. (Although I would very much prefer not to have to run my own email server, in the same way that I prefer not to fix the engine of my own car.) Alternatively, we can just do what everyone else does, and simply lie. It wouldn't be the first time, and it won't be the last. (#include relevant discussions of "legal" vs. "moral".)
What really made me angry was the emotional harm. I don't like using that phrase, because for me it brings to mind stereotypical unreasonable lawsuits, but that's what it is. An authority figure in Alex's life turned round and damn near bit his hand off, when Alex thought he was following that figure's instructions. It feels like a violation of trust. No matter whether we get his old email back, the original violation remains. Hence the title of my post: Google made my son cry. When you hurt my kid, I get angry.
I completely understand that Google's hands are tied because of COPPA. As soon as they knew that Alex was younger than 13, they had to act, and they can't "un-know" that information. My instinct says that this is an unintended consequence, though. I find it hard to imagine that "weeding out underage Gmail users" was listed as a goal on the G+ rollout plan.
What would make me happy, as a parent (first of all) and as an interaction designer (because I find it hard to leave the professional side behind)? What would make this right?
* If 13 is the hard age limit for using Gmail, Google should ask for your age when you sign up for a Gmail account. That way, you know in advance you're going to have to lie, rather than having the truth come up and bite you in the ass two years later.
* Instead of the harsh, default TOS violation message, a sympathetic and apologetic error message tuned for the specific circumstance of discovering that you are too young to use the service. Think about it. In this specific case, what do you know about the user? You know that they're a child. Design for this. Error messages are bad enough for grown-ups; they're double-bad for kids.
* The option to retrieve Alex's old email, instead of just discarding it.
* The option for us to give parental consent for Alex to have a Gmail account. I love Gmail. I would much rather Alex had a Gmail account than that we have to arse about with Thunderbird and our own IMAP server.
* Even if there is nothing they can do, an apology would be nice. Just because they're legally in the right, doesn't mean that they feel good about it. Show this."
Now, I don't think that's the right mentality to have, and it's based on false logic since being a teen still makes you prey on the internet, but it's the mentality that was imbued in me as a person who started using the internet pre-COPPA restrictions and, more importantly, pre-Facebook -- in an age when people weren't EXPECTED to have their offline identities connected to their online ones. Especially children.
His parents obviously knew about COPPA restrictions due to the YouTube account business, although I'm still confused as to why he wasn't asked for his age/birthdate on the Gmail registration page. No, their son shouldn't have put his age into Google+, especially if he already know that he couldn't use it to create a YouTube account; yes, Google should at least allow data export for the account (although they are by no means obligated to) and/or provide a streamlined process for parents to authorize the accounts of any users under 13. I remember GameFAQs reacted to COPPA by locking the account of any user under 13 until their 13th birthday -- this would be more reasonable to me, but it sounds like the personal data storage issue gets in the way of that.
Anyway, to me, the more interesting thing is that this post made me realize that I came "of age" (i.e., reached a point where I would be considered something of an adult rather than a complete child) at the same time the internet identity paradigm shifted from relative anonymity and "alter egos" to something much more closely interconnected to a person's real life. And so I wonder: if Alex had been born in 1991 rather than 2001, would this have happened with the theoretical Hotmail account he might have had? No, I think, because once upon a time, it was pretty much expected that a person would not be who they said they were on the internet -- and that was absolutely fine. And even moreso, back in the days when you COULD be a child on the internet, I don't think most children wanted to be known AS CHILDREN. Because seriously, who the heck wants to play Scrabble with an 8-year-old kid?
So, I guess as a kid who grew up before social networking became big, I still think kids are better off lying about their ages anyway. Those who know them in real life will understand that they're circumventing COPPA, and those who don't will possibly be less prone to being creepy/condescending/what-have-you. While I'm sure that this can be interpreted as victim blaming and everybody should have a right to feel safe on the internet while using their true identity, COPPA serves as something as an arbitrary age of consent, since 10-year-olds could unwittingly provide information that gets them kidnapped, just as 15-year-olds can unwittingly make babies. But if you're a 10-year-old who's mature enough to be conscious about privacy, or a 15-year-old who's mature enough to know about safe sex and birth control, then have at it, I say. The system is there to protect, but if you're not in need of the system's protection, then go ahead and circumvent it.
tldr, sorry your son cried, but it would have been easy enough to prevent, and pretty much the expected thing to do during the pre-social networking era.
he could start writing the book:
learn backups the hard way
Congratulations on proving that link-baiting works very well even on HN.
Because it's Google (an American company) who have to comply with COPPA and not some children (of any nationality).
The most efficient (least resources) route of compliance is to add a 13 or older checkbox, and disable anyone who doesn't check it.
The parental permissions required to host children's information are way too costly for mainstream internet services, and even with permission it might not be legal for Google to do some types of marketing towards children.
Fighting for the rights of minors - evil.
Considering the very large stick Google got beat with in regards to Buzz, I do not think that they are particularly interested in lobbying Capitol Hill for a change. In fact, both they and Apple sat out a congressional hearing on COPPA , although I couldn't find the cause. I would expect apathy to the process, as I would think Google would love to be able to sign up more users.
With that said, I wonder if one could make the case that COPPA is unconstitutional. Hear me out:
In the recent video game ruling SCOTUS has said that computer programs (video games) are a form of free speech. And they further said that conveying that free speech to minors w/o parental consent is protected.
So web services too are computer programs, and therefore free speech. And like violently deviant video games the ability to convey this speech to minors w/o parental consent is also protected.
COPPA overturned! :-)
Alternatively, Disney has managed to allow my under 13 kids in without any problems. All it took was my email address. Google could, too, if they cared.
1) While, as you note, the TOS URL contains "accounts", it is accessible in two clicks from Google.com. Simply click the "About" link and the TOS is on the About Google page. It's on a page that has nothing to do with accounts per se, but is the high-level page about the Google company and services.
2) Here's is the first paragraph in the TOS:
Your use of Google’s products, software, services and web sites (referred to collectively as the “Services” in this document and excluding any services provided to you by Google under a separate written agreement) is subject to the terms of a legal agreement between you and Google. “Google” means Google Inc., whose principal place of business is at 1600 Amphitheatre Parkway, Mountain View, CA 94043, United States. This document explains how the agreement is made up, and sets out some of the terms of that agreement.
They don't call out anything about accounts at all here. They seem to be referring to all services.
3) They actually have a section which is about accounts. If the whole document was about accounts they wouldn't have a specific section about it. Here is the opening paragraph of that section:
In order to access certain Services, you may be required to provide information about yourself (such as identification or contact details) as part of the registration process for the Service, or as part of your continued use of the Services. You agree that any registration information you give to Google will always be accurate, correct and up to date.
Notice the use of the term "certain Services". That is, certain services require an account, but not all. This document as a whole is referring to all services.
If you think this TOS only applies to accounts, I think you'll need stronger information than simply the URL where the document is located. I certainly don't think the URL is part of the legal agreement. And if you read the TOS by itself, it seems pretty clear that it includes Google search.
Read your TOS. Read the TOS your children agree to.
Don't whine when it gets enforced, you agreed to it.
He probably doesn't want to make the long-distance call to his congressman, given that he's in the Netherlands.
Why don't we let kids drive cars? All the kid has to do is lie on the form when taking the drivers test.
Because they could kill other people with them? I don't know, what do you think? I guess that's just like email, right?
Children need to be trained in the way they should interact with the world, not let loosed to figure out how to do whatever they want to do however they want. The parents need a way to train the kid in the proper use of this tool. The internet is not for young children. It is an extremely powerful tool that you can hurt yourself and others with.
We also don't let children travel the world alone to unknown places, visiting and interacting with unknown people. Why not? Because the kids will get into trouble and harm themselves and the parents will be oblivious.
edit: thanks to Vivtek for translation :)
There. Fixed that for you. Thanks for making the day a little more interesting.