Saturday, August 01, 2015

Age verification issue with dating app leading to "sex offender" case in Michigan raises new questions about possible future COPA

A recent case where a teenager was plead out as a sex offender (after brief jail sentence) when his female partner had lied about her age, raises potential questions regarding any possible future COPA-like laws.  The female had told the boy that she was 17 in messaging, when she was actually 14, and she had signed up on the adult section (probably violating terms of service) of the “What’s Hot” dating app.  (I’m not sure which link from Google is correct given the information in news stories; it seems to be a downloadable app for smart phones.) 
The natural question is, could the app have verified her age?  We know from all the testimony of the COPA trial (2007) that reliable age verification or adult-id systems were viewed as insufficient at the time.  However, new biometric ID systems are appearing (especially with Windows 10).  It’s logical to ask whether they could be expected for dating sites, and ultimately for sites offering “adult” content and whether this issue could be opened up again. 

Biometric validation could be useful to sites like Facebook, in really ensuring that new users are old enough according to the site's policies.
The details of the Michigan case were posted today Aug. 1, 2015 on the TV Reviews blog (with story links).

Update: Sept 21

The judge has vacated the sentence, and it is like the mandatory s.o. registration will be removed. 

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