Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Age-verification technology is still too weak to be required legally


Nicole Perlroth sums up the difficult state of age verification online in the Monday June 18 New York Times, “Business Day”, in the article “Big Hurdle in Verifying Ages Online”.

The issue was central to the COPA litigation a few years ago, and on the surface, if Facebook really were successful with intended age verification (so far unexplained) for minors in “Family accounts”, it could bring back arguments to look at COPA again. The article notes that Facebook now has nine times as many members as in 2008, when it competed with Myspace. 

But the most promising ideas (webcam-related retinal or perhaps fingerprint scanning, or lie detection interviewing) are just in development.  Other ideas, like use of credit cards, were found very wanting during the COPA trial in 2006.

A national ID system, like that in South Korea of other countries, could solve the problem, but is objectionable in the US because of privacy concerns.  But a national system, perhaps tied to the USPS NCOA system, could also be useful in preventing identity theft and fraud.  There is always a trade-off between privacy and security.

The link for the story is here.

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