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The author made a followup post here:


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."

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