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Dear Google Marketing (Re: Your kids policy)
128 points by Smrchy on Sept 18, 2011 | hide | past | web | favorite | 34 comments
Dear Google,

i watched this video:


You know, the "dear.sophie.lee" ad, where a proud father sends email to his little daughters Gmail account for her to read later. What a great idea.

Like Mr. Lee, we created a Gmail account for our 5 months old daughter a few days ago. We already sent her a few emails.

Now this account is locked and will be deleted in 30 days because i clicked on a Google+ link and honestly entered her birthday. :(

There is no way for me to unlock it, as your highly automated process only accepts legal docs that show that she indeed is 13+. Well, i hope she will be someday.

I can understand that you don't want kids - your future customers - in your system (well, maybe not).

But why do you advertise with such a video? Only to let your customers down who try this. As a long time private and business Google customer i ask you to rethink your actions on this.

Either publicly say: "Parents, go away to other platforms with your little kids - our legal team does not want this kids hassle". And delete such a misleading video.

Or change your policy on this - it would probably give you a lot of positive publicity to openly support kids when their parents agree.

Producing excellent marketing videos that will only let your customers down that try exactly what you advertised and have their memories deleted within 30 days is quite a let down.

You know, i would be glad if i could store my memories within a Gmail account. Because honestly i can't think of many companies that i would trust to be around in 20 years from now and keep my data safe.

Last I checked, (which was http://www.google.com/support/accounts/bin/answer.py?hl=en&#... right now), if you provide your credit number and are willing to pay thirty cents, you can re-activate the account. They specifically say that it can be done by parents/legal guardians. Problem solved, 'nuff said.

We had the same situation. My 11 year old daughter has had a Gmail account for many years and started using a couple years ago. Everything was fine until she tried to accept a Google+ invite and was locked out. Unfortunately this was more than just losing a few silly emails as this is her primary account for lots of school activities.

My wife found the credit card verification link and got the account reinstated. I wish Google+ would make it more clear or just disallow underaged accounts and not invalidate the whole Google account.


My daughter had hers disabled, never found the reactivate link. It sucks because she is now 13 and a non-issue, but lost her email address of 3-4 years.

I had similar situation. I paid Google but account was still not active. I decided to delete it :/

This issue was raised when the ad came out, and there is a distinct difference. The Dear Sophie account is not an account that is used by a child, it is one that is used by a child's father, and therefore allowed.

So what's the solution? Lie when asked for the birthday?

You would enter your own birthday. The Chrome ad is about an account used by a father to someday show his daughter, not creating an account for the daughter.

Actually that still doesn't work since you're supposed to only use your own real name in the Google account. It's against their policy to have a Google account in the name of someone else, even your kid, just so you don't have to put their real age.

Real names are only Google+ policy. In fact, I just checked, and a name isn't even required to have a Google Account. This is a bit of an edge case in that it is more of an account for a project than for a person, and Google doesn't really have it set up for this use (startup idea?). But it is the parent's account (they are entering the info, they write the emails from their perspective, input the pics/videos), so yes, the parent's birthday would be valid.

The real question is why did the OP even set up Google+ for an account intended to document their child's growth, and once they did, set it up as if the Google+ account was their child's.

The real names issue should only ban you from G+. That's it. There should not be any work done on your main account.

Of course google's famous policy of no tech support contact is good at making sure disputing is as painful as possible.

I think the way the setup in the advert is achieved legally (ie not foul of COPPA laws) is that the father owns the account and then will hand it over to his daughter at a later date (eg when she is 13, thus COPPA doesn't apply).

Therefore to apply logic to the situation, if you created a Google+ account for the email address you would enter your own age as you are (currently) the legal owner of the account.

But I agree, it's pretty clear the marketing department used some artistic license with their ad.

I'm pretty sure having two Google Accounts is a violation of their policy too.

Considering they have explicit multiaccount support[1], I find that hard to believe.

[1]: http://googlesystem.blogspot.com/2010/08/google-multiple-sig...

Dear Google,

Please have a "Do not try this at home" disclaimer on all your videos.

A guy with a disabled account,

Yours sincerely,

As a parent, I know exactly how you feel ... when my kids were mature enough to have (parent monitored) accounts on the Internet, they too were less than the required 13 years of age. The COPPA law allows you as a parent to determine that for yourselves but rightfully doesn't try to force providers to do so (you can understand the logistics nightmare that would become).

So the solution to both the real names policy and the under 13 year-old policy is simple. Take matters into your own hands.

Buy a domain name and DNS service. Sign this service up for Google applications for domains and then give accounts to up to 25 kids if you wish. Note that you will be responsible for complying with the COPPA regulations ... not too hard if it's for your own kids but perhaps it wouldn't be wise to provide this service to other's kids.

At some point in the relatively near future, you can expect G+ will be enabled for applications for domains (gradually almost every Google service has) and I don't see how they can force these domains to use any more real names than those entered for the domain's users. By definition, these are the names the users are commonly known by. Whether a real name or an alias, their colleagues must know this to be a valid alias/nick since they're using it as an e-mail handle.

Good luck!

I agree, I use this too for my kids and it works great. It has the added benefit that if Google decides to become evil/expensive/bankrupt in the next 20 years, you can at least keep your email address.

I saw Gmail being used in this manner quite a bit among our friends with new kids (or expecting kids). I was concerned about the long term security of the memories they shared this way, which ended up being the reason I co-founded my startup, Moment Garden http://momentgarden.com .

There are surprisingly few good, secure ways to save and share memories of your kids. Particularly if you don't trust Mark Zuckerberg with your child's private data.

I'm probably going to get bashed for this, but when I saw this ad, I cringed. Parents, please don't do this to your kids. I find it creepy that someday a woman is going to be handed hundreds of letters that her father wrote to her over the years. It's weird and awkward.

When I saw the ad I thought, 'surely no one would be that weird to their kid...right?', then I immediately realized that someone would do this exact thing.

Just let your kids grow up with you in real time.

That video is misleading since it shows things that you cannot do because of their policies. It should be reported as inappropriate hint

the problem is that Google really doesn't give a crap about any of it's customers(not even paid really).

that's why they use bots to automatically suspend accounts...because a real human being wouldn't have cared to do it.

Google makes about 2 billion in profit every quarter...how about spending 30 million(10mm/mo) to hire 3000 customer service reps to double check before ruining people's experience? Call it a good will investment and count it as a PR expense.

It's not their children policy it's the government's: Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA): http://www.ftc.gov/privacy/coppafaqs.shtm

The government's policy is that anyone who has under 13 users must be transparent with their parents, and post clear privacy policies. It doesn't prohibit under 13.

It's G+'s policy to prohibit under 13 G+ users, and Google's policy to handle G+ related policy the way they do.

From the linked act:

The primary goal of COPPA and the Rule is to place parents in control over what information is collected from their young children online. The Rule was designed to protect children under age 13 while accounting for the dynamic nature of the Internet. The Rule applies to operators of commercial websites and online services directed to children under 13 that collect, use, or disclose personal information from children, and operators of general audience websites or online services with actual knowledge that they are collecting, using, or disclosing personal information from children under 13. Operators covered by the Rule must:

1. Post a clear and comprehensive privacy policy on their website describing their information practices for children’s personal information;

2. Provide direct notice to parents and obtain verifiable parental consent, with limited exceptions, before collecting personal information from children;

3. Give parents the choice of consenting to the operator’s collection and internal use of a child’s information, but prohibiting the operator from disclosing that information to third parties;

4. Provide parents access to their child’s personal information to review and/or have the information deleted;

5. Give parents the opportunity to prevent further use or online collection of a child’s personal information;

6. Maintain the confidentiality, security, and integrity of information they collect from children.

Stuff like "obtain verifiable parental consent" is so unfeasible and tangled for any web service with any significant amount of users it is tantamount to prohibiting under 13.

I ran an online web forum in the United States and had the COPPA stuff, had an online fax service where parents could fax signatures. Many kids instead just lied about their age to participate, in the years that I ran the online forum only 2 people ever sent in forms.

Recently I sold the website and the new owner moved it to Europe.

It ends up promoting kids lying about their birthdates on a regular basis. There's actually no incentive to tell the truth.

"Lie about your age or get screwed anyway."

This also applies to the over-18ers. It's excess effort to put in a real dob.

It is a stupid panicy law to begin with, the politicians who came up with it didn't think of the consequences, they just went on with their grandstandings.

As for it's exceptions they are too vague and troublesome to scale for millions of users.

Technically, there are parental consent clauses in the bill. Google is not willing to implement them. It probably is a cost issue.

I do think the commercial is ill-advised given their policy since it shows a use case, in an uplifting way, that they don't want to support.

Sometimes, these things get so complex to implement and validate against that its worth it to just not. For google its cost. They can't use a minor's data at all, and they are a data company. The cost is high, the benefit is zero. A teen will use whatever their friends use anyways.

I get the feeling that someone who grows up with a different service will be harder to recruit later due to the earlier slight.

The left foot doesn't know what the left foot is doing.

The video from the link is about Johnny Cash...?

You're not a customer when you're using a free web service; you're the merchandise being sold to the real customers, advertisers.

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