Company’s response is more than just an age-gate and an indifferent shrug
The Children’s Advertising Review Unit’s (CARU) paean to the virtues of Snap, owner of mobile app Snapchat, begins with a frank admission: “When it comes to technology, kids are often savvier than adults and it is almost impossible to prevent them from lying online about their age.”
Sobering stuff. The report goes on to state that “techniques that effectively restricted access and prevented children from breaching protections are quickly becoming obsolete.”
But Snapchat, unlike many companies, “goes beyond the minimum requirements and incorporates higher-level safety design features to ensure that underage children are not able to use Snapchat.”
So how does Snapchat score so high?
Break out your notebooks, folks:
First, Snap is crystal clear about whom the app is for. “Snap’s Terms of Service clearly prohibit users under 13 years of age and makes no effort to market the app to children or provide them with an appealing user experience,” says CARU. Other services that surreptitiously cater or market to children while maintaining that their market is adult routinely earn negative results in investigations.
Next, Snap effectively age-gates children under 13. “The app employs an age-gate asking date of birth in a neutral manner,” reports CARU, “and does not display text that implies a user needs to be over 13 years of age to register.”
CARU has made it clear that age-gating is not enough of a barrier to underage use. So, in addition to age-gating, Snapchat has instituted “tight” systems including “an easy, in-app reporting tool permitting users to flag accounts that are believed to be underage as well as a robust trust and safety team that investigates all such reports.”
Finally, “all app features that touch personal data are vetted collaboratively through the legal team, product engineers, and trust and safety representatives,” states the report.
Words to the wise.