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FTC Fines Xanga for Violating Kids' Privacy 200

Posted by Zonk
from the get-your-parents-permission-to-read-this-post dept.
WebHostingGuy writes "As reported by MSNBC, the FTC has fined Xanga.com $1 million dollars for repeatedly allowing children under 13 to sign up for the service without getting their parent's consent. This is the largest penalty ever issued for violations of the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act." From the article: "'Protecting kids' privacy online is a top priority for America's parents, and for the FTC,' FTC Chairman Deborah Platt Majoras said in a statement. 'COPPA requires all commercial Web sites, including operators of social networking sites like Xanga, to give parents notice and obtain their consent before collecting personal information from kids they know are under 13. A million-dollar penalty should make that obligation crystal clear.'" What impact, if any, do you think this will have on other community sites that may not always follow the COPPA statutes?
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FTC Fines Xanga for Violating Kids' Privacy

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  • by PrinceAshitaka (562972) * on Thursday September 07, 2006 @06:15PM (#16062596) Homepage
    The FTC is trying to prevent child predators access to young children, a noble endeavor. The problem is that there are few good ways to confirm a person age online. If they disallow users under 13 from creating accounts, the users will lie about there age. If they want age confirmation, then it costs much more, and less people will wan tto go throug the trouble. I have credit cards but I am not about to use one online for age verification purposes. What about all the legitmate users over 13 that do not have the ability to confirm ones age. I don't know how a 15 year old would go about this online. A 15 year old would not have a drivers license, a credit card, or any other indentification. This will do nothing to help thier goals of protecting children.

    That being said, they seem to have broken the law, it doesn't matter that the law has no value.
    • by exley (221867) on Thursday September 07, 2006 @06:21PM (#16062648) Homepage
      You make a valid point -- performing age verification online is difficult, and when age verification is in place, some kids will just circumvent it. But that's not the issue. From the sounds of it, Xanga wasn't even trying to stop kids under 13 from signing up without permission. Xanga knew full well that the kids were under 13 (by the birthdays that they entered when signing up), and as yet, did nothing.
      • by demeteloaf (865003) on Thursday September 07, 2006 @06:41PM (#16062775)

        The thing is, the kids who did get in were lying anyways. Everyone who wanted to register had to check a box saying that A) They were over 13, and B) they read the terms of service. My guess is that the Xanga designers thought that that was a good enough age check, and they didn't bother writing in code that actually checked the date of birth entered, because the users were already affirming that they were over 13 by checking the box.

        Basically the FTC is saying that Xanga needs to make sure the kids are smart enough to lie in 2 different places (both by checking the box saying that they are over 13 and entering a fake date of birth), and because they didn't do that they should have to pay a fine. The solution of forcing the under 13 year olds to lie about their birthdate really doesn't solve anything at all... I know that i personally just used a fake birthdate when I was registering for over 18 sites as a kid, and there's really not going to be anything stopping the under 13 crowd from lying about their age as well.

        • by Kesch (943326) on Thursday September 07, 2006 @06:51PM (#16062837)
          Yes, but with a birthdate check instead of just allowing in dishonest preteens, they will only allow in dishonest preteens who can do simple math problems.
        • by exley (221867) on Thursday September 07, 2006 @07:06PM (#16062921) Homepage
          As far as kids lying, that is again a valid point. From TFA:


          "COPPA requires all commercial Web sites, including operators of social networking sites like Xanga, to give parents notice and obtain their consent before collecting personal information from kids they know are under 13."

          So it's not as simple as the FTC saying that kids should just be able to lie in two different places. Now, how exactly parental consent is supposed to be given is another issue. And of course, there are ways to lie about that as well. Don't get me wrong, I'm not trying to jump on the "But what about the children!" bandwagon. But at the same time, not every piece of legislation about protecting children is automatically going to be bullshit just because people here on Slashdot think so. Yeah, things like COPPA could very well be unworkable solutions to the problem. Just in this thread, as well as other comments on this article, plenty of flaws in executing laws such as this are being highlighted. The issue can't just be ignored, though.

          Oh, and finally, Xanga should have known full well what their obligations were by law (whether or not the law is crap), and they could have easily covered their asses. So I have no sympathy for them in this matter.

        • by fm6 (162816) on Thursday September 07, 2006 @07:39PM (#16063094) Homepage Journal
          Basically the FTC is saying that Xanga needs to make sure the kids are smart enough to lie in 2 different places (both by checking the box saying that they are over 13 and entering a fake date of birth), and because they didn't do that they should have to pay a fine.

          In other words, Xanga was negligent because they failed to implement a safeguard that is known to be useless. The main purpose of this fine seems to be to allow the FTC to claim that they're doing everything they can to protect children. And, technically speaking, they are!

      • by AusIV (950840) on Thursday September 07, 2006 @07:02PM (#16062900)
        First, Xanga does have users enter a birthday when signing up, and if the birthdate shows a person is not 13, they cannot sign up.

        The rest is not quite true either. If parents become aware of their kid's xanga, there is a process for having the site shut down. Xanga is huge. It would be incredibly difficult (if even possible) for Xanga to monitor all sites. However I believe they have a process for reporting underage users, and look into reports.

        • by exley (221867)
          First, Xanga does have users enter a birthday when signing up, and if the birthdate shows a person is not 13, they cannot sign up.

          If that truly is the case, then what would the FTC be basing this on? Can you change your birthdate after you sign up? It sounds like, at some point, it was pretty clear that kids under 13 were signed up, and Xanga just sat on that.

          It would be incredibly difficult (if even possible) for Xanga to monitor all sites.

          Would it? Surely there must be a way that they could auto

        • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

          by uw_badgers (889261)
          First, Xanga does have users enter a birthday when signing up, and if the birthdate shows a person is not 13, they cannot sign up.

          Now they do, but apparently there was a period of time where they didn't check the birthdate, and 1.7 million children under 13 signed up. From the MSNBC article:

          "Children merely had to check a box confirming they were over 13, according to FTC lawyer Mary Engle -- even if they'd previously entered a birth date indicating they were under 13."
    • by xiphoris (839465) on Thursday September 07, 2006 @06:23PM (#16062663) Homepage
      It absolutely matters that the law has no value. It is any citizen's duty to attempt to reverse such unreasonable laws.

      If, as you admit, there is no reasonable way for a website to enforce minimum-age restrictions, then the law is unjust and should not be upheld. Indeed, it will be a good thing for the company to take the FTC to court and get the law struck down, not only as unconstitutional, but hopefully as stupid also. That might send a message to legislators who cry out "But think of the children!" and pass dumb laws as part of their election campaigns.
      • Indeed, it will be a good thing for the company to take the FTC to court and get the law struck down, not only as unconstitutional, but hopefully as stupid also. That might send a message to legislators who cry out "But think of the children!" and pass dumb laws as part of their election campaigns.

        I'm afraid I don't have enough faith in the system to believe that the law would be struck down. The "think of the children" angle is incredibly effective, that's why it gets used so much for easy points in the

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by kosmosik (654958)
        > If, as you admit, there is no reasonable way for a website to
        > enforce minimum-age restrictions,

        I live in Poland/Europe. For starters. :)

        Here when you are born you get a PESEL number which is date of birth +some ID. The same number is printed on your ID documents whenever you are an adult on a minor.

        My point is that only you and the state knows that fe. 198402234214 == Jane Kowalski - so all websites need to do in order to verify age is require that PESEL number and then pass it to another organizat
        • by QuaZar666 (164830)
          well in the states we have what is called a social security number, but due to people stealing social security number, we do not give it out without good reason. If some site asked me for my social security number, I most likely would not give it out and go somewhere else, most likely some site in europe which doesn't have crazy laws that protect people from themselves.
        • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

          by Cramer (69040)
          You obviously haven't thought about this for very long... If I give my PESEL to a web site to verify who I am, then THEY would also know my number. For example, my name is "foo" and my number is "42". I know my number and the state, who assigned that number in the first place, knows that number. If I give my name as "foo" to Xanga and they ask for my PESEL, then they will also know my number once I've been confirmed. Xanga won't immediately know "foo" is "42" until some state agency, ultimately, confirm
          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by arose (644256)
            What he described doesn't require PESEL to be secret, in fact I doubt the Polish would be stupid enough to use a number you give left and right (if it's anything like the Latvian version) as the sole mechanism for identification, that's what the snail mail he mentioned is for--the PESEL in this case only serves as a "hash" for a snail mail address.
          • by kosmosik (654958)
            > For example, my name is "foo" and my number is "42". I know my number
            > and the state, who assigned that number in the first place, knows
            > that number. If I give my name as "foo" to Xanga and they ask for
            > my PESEL, then they will also know my number once I've been confirmed.

            But what is the problem with that some site will know your name and PESEL?

            > Xanga won't immediately know "foo" is "42" until some state agency,
            > ultimately, confirms it. But, the instant my identity is confirmed,
            >
            • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

              by thej1nx (763573)
              So Xanga is a website that imediately steals your identity? Why you wanted to use it in the first place?


              because your logically flawed question missed one thing.

              He doesn't minds using it, if they don't have access to his identity in the first place. Same reason you would use hundreds of sites like say slashdot, without caring whether or not they are capable of stealing your SSN.

              Because they don't have access to your SSN in the first place.

      • No prohibition on collecting information based on age.

        But, you can't distribute or use for marketing purposes any information that appears to be from someone 13 or under.

        See, that wasn't that hard, was it?
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by antifoidulus (807088)
      Well, according to the article what Xanga got in trouble for is not validating the birthdate the users gave to see if it was over 13. They just had to check a box stating that they were over 13. However, suppose they did put an extra check in there that rejected the user if the birthdate indicated they were under 13. The ones with minimal ability in math(given the trackrecord in education, I'm not sure how big a percentage of the local population that really is :P) would just change their birhdate to be
      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by tonyr1988 (962108)
        It shouldn't be that easy for children (under 13) to accomplish. The article is correct - it should ask for the birthday, not a box.

        An average 13 year old kid will know that they have to check the box to get in. Asking for a birthday (especially if you put it between some other boxes) won't get a second thought from most kids. It's an easy, yet effective (not perfect, but pretty close) age validation.

        As far as the "kids will go back and change their birthday" - that's avoidable, too. I remember many y
        • They kept a log of recently applied-for accounts that were denied because of age, and if too many fields match, they wouldn't let you re-apply.

          So...just sign up with completely false information under a new account. As far as Yahoo's concerned, I'm a 29 year old from Dallas, Texas with the name Marvin Fischer.

          Unless there is Actual. Physical. Verification. there's absolutely nothing that can be done to verify these thing Kids are smart. Smarter than FTC brass, at least.
        • We're talking about "tricking" 13 year old kids to tell the truth about their age. It shouldn't be that hard.

          You kidding me? Have you seen the amount of 999 year old people from Ishkabible, Alaskor on Yahoo? You get burned once, you don't do it again. These are kids trying to get access to whatever popular social site is out there right now... a simple age check isn't going to stop them from tracking down the most important things in their little pubescent lives, hehe.
        • by RexRhino (769423)
          Or, how about this: Personal networking sites moves outside the U.S. ... And then the sites don't have to give a fuck about verifying anybody!

          The side effect of this law is that:
          1. Verification will be pointless when the myspace-like-sites move overseas!
          2. America will cease to be a place to run a web based company.

          Of course, the long term effect of these laws is that it will be easier to exploit kids, and we will be sabatoging our own economy. But at least politicians will be seen as "doing something".
          • by Haeleth (414428)
            Or, how about this: Personal networking sites moves outside the U.S. ... And then the sites don't have to give a fuck about verifying anybody!

            Yeah, because that's working really well for the gambling sites, isn't it?
        • For the "reservoir dog" game I wanted to check the official web site. So I went to it : there is an age verification thingy. I clicked inadvertently on the OK button before entering the correct year. I got the answer "you are not authorised". Naturally they used a trick with activex to put some random file data somewhere, because even after having deleted all cookie, offline content, changed IP , used a proxie I still could not go in the web site. I will definitly not buy the game when it is such an hassle
      • by DragonWriter (970822) on Thursday September 07, 2006 @07:48PM (#16063145)
        But of course, the bigger issue is why the FTC and Xanga have to be parents to these kids.

        Because:

        1. people who can't be bothered to raise their own children want government to do it for them, and
        2. busybodies who want to tell other people how to raise their children want to use government as the the tool to compel compliance.
        • by mapkinase (958129)
          How about this?

          1. People who have little trust from the government to apply a proper control of the their children (the same government can interfere "like this" in the family affairs) rightfully want government also to take proper care of the kids.
          2. Responsible people who do not want THEIR OWN kids to be bullied by kids of the idiots.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by ChronosWS (706209)
      Actually, it does matter. We should be outraged at ineffective or unrealistic laws such as this which only serve to penalize businesses because they go against the political whims of the day. Just because Congress wants a thing doesn't mean that thing is feasable or that we should be burdened with their unrealistic views of how things should be.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by westlake (615356)
      A 15 year old would not have a drivers license, a credit card, or any other indentification.

      Pre-teens have been using plastic for quite some time now. Girls Say Hello Kitty To Hello Debit Card [washingtonpost.com] (2004)

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by coleopterana (932651)
      It's always been recognized that children under the age of 13 can do the following: unknowingly disclose personal information that makes them vulnerable to people skilled in exploiting and manipulating individuals with limited experience in some areas (like avoiding being prey) and lying about their ages. It's not going to be possible under most circumstances to background check a user's personal information such as his or her age--it's not feasible, it's expensive, and most of the time it's just a waste o
    • COPPA does not exist to be a pain, it exists as a way to help make sites that target tweens and children (intentionally or not) responsible for the content they are making public. It exists to protect children from having their personally identifiable info available in a public forum.

      No one makes people enter into the business of social networking. Like any other business there are ethics and laws by which that business must abide. If a site is blatantly ignoring basic safeguards COPPA requires, they are
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        COPPA does not exist to be a pain, it exists as a way to help make sites that target tweens and children (intentionally or not) responsible for the content they are making public. It exists to protect children from having their personally identifiable info available in a public forum.

        In short "think of the children" political rhetoric. Where is the parent in all this questionable legislation? What makes you think COPPA is valid globally? COPPA DOES exist to be a pain as well as political poll "feel good" po

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Cramer (69040)

        There are many ways to verify parental consent. Credit card is one, 1-800 # is another, signed fax form is another.

        Credit Card... simple swipe it from mom/dad and you're in. If the site doesn't charge the card, the "parents" will never know the number was given to anyone else. Depending on how and what you check, it could even be a number they found through google!

        800#... call it yourself and lie. Or have a friend call it, and LIE. Do you have their voice on file? Are you going to record the call for fu

    • by JimBobJoe (2758) <swiftheart@gmail . c om> on Thursday September 07, 2006 @08:01PM (#16063205)
      I don't know how a 15 year old would go about this online.

      A Time magazine article from a month or two ago indicated that the state attorney general's were having panicked meetings regarding this issue (including the famous quote from the Connecticut AG along the lines of "if we can put a man on the moon, we can verify age online.")

      For a time they actually considered requiring sites like Myspace to collect SSNs...and according to the article, they rejected the idea once they realized that most of the world does not have an SSN, but does use the internets.

      If that doesn't give you an idea of the caliber of people we're dealing with, I dunno what would. Requiring teens to submit their SSNs to use these types of sites would be a disaster along biblical proportions--imagine how easy phishing would be--all you'd need to do is send out an email that claims it's from Xanga needing your SSN.

    • A 15 year old could get a state ID, and they could somehow implement it into each states system. Each state could have a database of State ID and Drivers Lisc numbers to add a level of identification online.
    • by Khyber (864651)
      Credit card companies don't check your age. I've had a VISA Gold card since I was 14. Imagine the fun I had at the expense of that company! Hell, I think they've got pre-pay cards that ANY kid can buy at the local Wal-Mart nowdays, so a credit card for verification means precisely jack shit, and has for me for the past 10 years.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Thus, they have no rights online. Therefore, this should not be filed under YRO.

    End of message.
    • by m0rph3us0 (549631)
      Children have less rights, and even as an adult your rights in the US are curtailed by age. Being President and being able to drink just to name two common examples.
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Children have no rights

      That's right. That's why my father always asked me to do these stupid things; "Hey you don't have rights! ONLY OBLIGATIONS AND DUTIES!" when he used to whip me while I was working to bring in the money as a 10yo. "When you grow up you can have your own kids who have no rights", he used to say. Oh the fond times we had.

      The older you get, the more rights you get and the less obligations, because you're more human when you're older. When you're a child, you're just an oversized sperma

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by mdwh2 (535323)
      Well children obviously do have rights - but more to the point, what about the rights of someone hosting a website?
  • by smellsofbikes (890263) on Thursday September 07, 2006 @06:19PM (#16062630) Journal
    Sites will move their hosting out of the US, and their executives won't visit the US [slashdot.org].

    More realistically, social networking sites will add more verification layers (that don't work) for greater plausible deniability, and those that think they can, will start requiring credit card info.
    • by westlake (615356)
      social networking sites will add more verification layers (that don't work) for greater plausible deniability, and those that think they can, will start requiring credit card info.

      I think you'll find that an experienced trial attorney does not share your innocent faith in "plausible deniability" as a defense.

  • Proof? (Score:5, Funny)

    by HockeyPuck (141947) on Thursday September 07, 2006 @06:21PM (#16062647)
    How do you prove that a kid got his parent's permission?

    Have your parent click here [__] to proceed.

  • this seems sort of silly. What if the kid lies? Do they need to start collecting DNA and verify against the national database? Hope that no adult shares their account with a kid, or a stolen CC is used?

    Take this far enough and NO site will able to function taht has any age requirement. Oh wait, but its for the kids, and can raise taxes.. lets go push this thru!
  • by nurb432 (527695) on Thursday September 07, 2006 @06:27PM (#16062689) Homepage Journal
    I thought they had none, according to the last case i heard of the government/school searching students at will. " children do not have the same rights as adults "...

    Lets make up our minds, ok?
  • by pcgamez (40751) on Thursday September 07, 2006 @06:28PM (#16062690)
    From the article, the following happened:

    People were first presented with a question asking if they were over 13. If the users clicked yes, they proceeded to the registration page. The registration page included fields for birthdays. People who had lied on the first part could then enter their age. The form did not automatically reject users whose birthdates were not at least 13 years prior. In this case it looks like (IANAL) Xanda DID comply with the law. The FTC seems to be punishing them for making it "too easy" to get around it. This is where I have a problem. Where does it end? The FTC could just as easily say requiring a CC (to verify age) is too easy because they could borrow someone else's. There doesn't seem to be a hard line for where reasonable precautions start and end.

    "According to the Federal Trade Commission, children who wanted to open a Xanga account didn't even have to show that level of ingenuity. Children merely had to check a box confirming they were over 13, according to FTC lawyer Mary Engle -- even if they'd previously entered a birth date indicating they were under 13. "

    Sure, not kids can just as easily lie like they do on myspace and put a different birth year.
  • by adf2006 (998737) on Thursday September 07, 2006 @06:31PM (#16062718)
    What more could they have done? They asked for age verification upon sign-up. No parent is going to give their thirteen year old child a credit card for the use of age verification on a site like that.

    The policy makes sense, parents should know what their pre-teen children are doing. The problem is that this is the parents responsibility, not the website providing the service. It's one thing for a movie theater or porn-shop to let minors in, it's on their premises. These kids are (mostly) accessing the internet from their own home, where the parents should be able to monitor their activities.

    There's only so much that can be done and putting a million dollar fine on Xanga is a completely ridiculous way to try and make the government look like it's actually doing something to help the problem. They're laying a huge portion of the blame in the wrong camp.

    There is a problem, this is clearly an overzealous attempt at creating an appearance of action to hide the fact that there is simply nothing effective that they can really do. Xanga is the unfortunate victim.
    • Not foolproof, but I thought the idea of hitting pop-culture within a certain age-timeframe was a neat trick when introduced in "Leisure Suit Larry" years ago.
  • by xiphoris (839465) on Thursday September 07, 2006 @06:32PM (#16062724) Homepage
    What effect will the websites have on the law? That's the question I would ask.

    Laws like this are clearly unenforceable. More importantly, it is not morally the website's job to police the people who visit it. It's the job of the parents. Legislators don't seem to win their positions based on campaigns of parental responsibility, however. The trend seems to be "blame everyone else for your kid's problems".

    Look at the crap going on involving Grand Theft Auto: someone makes a game modification to show a tit, a tit that isn't even available without modifying the game, and tons of legislators go apeshit about how it's inappropriate for children. Clearly these people aren't worried about justice, and instead are worried about winning the votes of emotional parents, the Security Moms.

    A reasonable argument can be made that, for example, liquor stores have a duty to prevent children from buying alcohol in them. However, you must also consider that it is extremely easy and reliable to verify the age of store patrons. No analogy exists online -- it is impossible.

    Expecting websites to perform such policing is unquestionably unfair, and I suspect that the courts will agree. The law might have effect on some websites in the short term. In the long term, the websites will have the law overturned as unreasonable.

    We just have to hope that the justices who hear these cases really have an interest in justice, unlike the legislators who passed these braindead laws in the first place.

    America needs to raise its own damn children (and I say this as an American)
    • by bunions (970377) on Thursday September 07, 2006 @06:39PM (#16062763)
      > America needs to raise its own damn children (and I say this as an American)

      Yes and no. The US is really schitzophrenic about this. On one hand it's hyperprotective about ludicrous bullshit (cf: GTA) and on the other hand it won't even provide decent free lunches to poor kids. It's sort of baffling.
      • by raehl (609729)
        it won't even provide decent free lunches to poor kids. It's sort of baffling.

        I don't understand the source of your confusion. The problem is there are too many children living below the poverty line. If you don't feed them, that number goes down. Seems like the natural solution to me.
        • by mooingyak (720677)
          Wildly inefficient. They might steal food from other people before they starve.
          • I agree. A far better solution would be for the parents of poor children to sell their excess children to rich as a foodstuff and use the money thus gained to feed their remaining children. I realise that I am not the first to make such a suggestion [wikipedia.org].

            Stephen

        • They could provide decent free lunches to kids, but the kids wouldn't eat them. You could provide a million different dishes based on rice, pasta, and vegetables. But the kids will only eat pizza, tacos, and chicken fingers, which are far more expensive.

          I don't understand why the schools are feeding the kids anyways. Let the parents give the kids food. Those who can't afford it get WIC. Get rid of the cafeteria, the food service, the lunch ladies. Give the money you saved to CPA to deal with the children wh
      • On one hand it's hyperprotective about ludicrous bullshit and on the other hand it won't even provide decent free lunches to poor kids. It's sort of baffling

        Well, duhhhh... One of them looks like it's protecting children and the other would cost us money. Still baffled?

    • by Mad Marlin (96929)

      Clearly these people aren't worried about justice, and instead are worried about winning the votes of emotional parents, the Security Moms.

      Do we see now why letting women vote was a bad idea ... ;-)

    • by westlake (615356)
      Look at the crap going on involving Grand Theft Auto: someone makes a game modification to show a tit, a tit that isn't even available without modifying the game, and tons of legislators go apeshit about how it's inappropriate for children.

      Hot Coffee was not a tit. It was button-mashing sex play that could be unlocked in both the PC and console game There is no third-party content in this so-called mod, which was Rockstar's original and disastrous PR spin.

      Rockstar came into this fight with a reputation fo

  • Sounds like they settled with the FTC.

    They should've fought, legal fees would very likely be less than $1M.

    How much could a court fine them had they fought and lost? More than $1M?
    • by vertinox (846076)
      They should've fought, legal fees would very likely be less than $1M.

      IANAL but....

      HAHAAHAAHAHAAHAH!
      • Even at $1K an hour, $1M will take a long time.

        Look at the RIAA and MPAA they don't spend that much.

        And as far as I know the FTC has NEVER, EVER, won a court judgement for any monetary damages for a COPPA violation. Not one penny.

        All the payments have been settlements, every last one. Even Hersheys and Misses Fields.

        Plus even if they spend over $1M being able to do business without interference would make them more money in the future.
    • They should've fought, legal fees would very likely be less than $1M.
      Fighting the FTC would have resulted in publicity for the fight, which would likely have led to pressure on schools and other places to block access to Xanga, which would have potentially cost them much more than the legal fees and expenses. Though I doubt it would cost them less than $1 million in legal expenses to fight it if the FTC was really serious.
  • If you really want a sensationalist headline you need to tighten that baby up a bit.

    Try:

    "FTC Fines Xanga for Violating Kids"

    That one is a nice head turner.
  • by ajenteks (943860) on Thursday September 07, 2006 @06:53PM (#16062855)
    From TA: "Protecting kids' privacy online is a top priority for America's parents, and for the FTC," FTC Chairman Deborah Platt Majoras said in a statement. Apparently it's not enough of a priority to the parents with underage children signing up on Xanga, or these parents would be stepping in themselves.
    • The problem is that (many) parents are taking the tack that the "Nanny State" should do their jobs for them.

              Brett
  • by Skynyrd (25155) on Thursday September 07, 2006 @06:58PM (#16062880) Homepage
    Why are parents allowing their 12 year olds to surf the net without supervision?
    It isn't the government's problem to solve - it belongs to the parents.

    Of course, it's the US, so it'll never fall in the lap of the sperm & egg donor.
    • by Turn-X Alphonse (789240) on Thursday September 07, 2006 @07:49PM (#16063147) Journal
      Okay this is getting on my nerves.. It really is because Slashdot makes no bloody sense!

      We act like we weren't children and we'll be the ultimate parents. We'll know where our kids are 24/7 and have RFID tags in their penis to stop them getting anyone pregnant or whatever magic pixie dust solution it is.

      50 years ago kids did stuff they shouldn't, 1000 years ago they did, even today they do. That's because it's what kids do. If they can't get on Xanga/MySpace/whatever at home they will find a way to do it. Beg, borrow or steal you'll not stop a kid who desires something you try to keep out of his hands.

      We bitch about over-protective soccer mums and then act like every bad kid is bad because the parents didn't do "the right thing". SHUT UP ABOUT IT! Some kids are just bad, some kids are just nerds, some kids want to screw their mother. That is how life is, everyone is different and while on mass people are generally okay that does not mean there are no bad apples and "parenting" can fix the ones that are.

      Some times it's not possible to babysit your kids every second of the day. You have other things to do and hope for the best, most of the time it works out and you get away with it but once in a while it doesn't. This is not bad parenting, this is being a HUMAN BEING. Maybe we should hand-cuff parents and kids together, after all it's not like mothers and fathers need to pee any more, so it's fine if their kids follow them every where right?

      I know this is rather trollish but damn it, you guys need to get off your high horses and accept that parents are meer mortals just like us! They can't be in 6 places at once and some times the greater evil comes before going Big brother on their 12 year old reading e-mails from their friends about how awesomely cool Ninja turtles was this week.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Chanc_Gorkon (94133)
        Um....I don't know about you, but it sounds like you have never been a parent. It's incredibly EASY to figure out where kids are. Hell I am 35 and my mom still knows what I do. I know what my son does and where he goes. While I will agree that it's impossible to know exactly where they are every second of the day, it's pretty easy to control WHAT they do in your house:

        1. NO computer in their room until they are 18. Sorry.....doesn't happen. Not saying they can have thier own, it just WILL NOT be in th
        • The whole Slashdot stance on "No puter untill you're 18" thing makes me laugh.. Most of us grew up on them, yet we wish to restrict our kids doing the same thing.. how does that work?

          And again I shall point out "Kids tell their parents jackshit". I don't care how close you are to your kids very rarely will a kid tell the truth to the point of getitng in trouble unless he really really must. Sorry if you can't remember your childhood but I can and I know that no kid is ever going to stick to the rules they f
          • by tweek (18111)
            Read his rule more closely. No computer in the BEDROOM until the kid's 18. I plan on doing the same thing with my children.

            I'm of the opinion that any computer a child uses should be in a commonly visible place. There's no better impetus to behaving than having everyone be able to see what you do.........for the most part ;)
    • by Locke2005 (849178)
      Big deal! I let my 5 year old surf the net without supervision! Of course, she can't read, so she is unlikely to get into very involved discussions with predators... the problem is not that predators can make contact with underage persons online, the problem is that underage persons are stupid enough to arrange real world meetings with people they met online!
  • A quick summary of this situation:

    A) They had a "Are you over 13" check box
    B) They had a entered birthdate

    They only checked A, but not B, to determine if a user could register. If they hadn't asked for B, then A would have been sufficient as a "legal" check under this law. Also, if they had checked B, the users would have very likely gone back and lied about it, but they still would have been legal.

    The fact that these checks are easily bypassed is not the issue at hand. Instead it is much like the issue wit
  • GameFAQs (Score:2, Interesting)

    GameFAQs has a very interesting policy which perhaps might save sites like Xanga and MySpace from getting reamed with fines. Anytime somebody on GameFAQs makes a post which implies or states that the user is underage, their account is immediately suspended pending verification of age. If the person really is underage, then their account is suspended until they are old enough.
  • Xanga settled with the FTC for $1 million dollars plus certain policy changes (such as setting up a community moderation system which allows users to flag other users as "underage", and setting up a rating system for user created content), they weren't fined $1 million.

    The difference is important; a settlement doesn't mean anything was proven, it means Xanga felt the cost of complying with the settlement terms was worth paying considering the cost of fighting the issue and the risk that they might be fined.
  • After all, I could go to this site and say I'm 11 years old and they could rack up more fines.
  • by exp(pi*sqrt(163)) (613870) on Thursday September 07, 2006 @08:32PM (#16063322) Journal
    Don't ask the kids their ages. Ask everyone if they're a pedophile. Anyone who says yes is barred from signing up. It works for keeping terrorists out of the country.
  • by AriaStar (964558) on Friday September 08, 2006 @02:47AM (#16064535) Journal
    Parents, all you have to do to to get out of parenting and monitoring the child YOU created is to tell Xanga/MySpace/etc. that they have to do it for you! What fun! No longer do you have to actually watch your own children! And it's only a matter of time before they'll even have to change your infant child's diapers and potty train for you!! Because you, as a parent, should have to take NO responsibility for parenting!!!

    Damned parents. Learn to watch your children closer and to take responsibility for raising them. If you aren't raising your children to be ethical people, ones truthful about their ages who won't go where they know they shouldn't, that's your problem. I know it's hard work, but it can be done. If you aren't ready to take the responsibility, don't have kids. And if you already chose to, don't bitch about it. You made your choice.
    • by Shados (741919)
      Totally agree with you. Even worse is, if things like this continue, the next few generations will grow up with the "Anything you -can- actualy do, is fair game" mentality. Kids will learn that if people are not actively trying to stop them from doing something, its fine to do it. Chaos incoming.
    • If you aren't raising your children to be ethical people, ones truthful about their ages who won't go where they know they shouldn't, that's your problem.

      Point: really, is it unethical to dodge a law that's pretty useless at best anyway? I know I wouldn't have a problem witht my (hypothetical) kids pretending to be a couple years older to get something harmless like a Xanga or LJ or whatever. Hell I did it when I was younger, and I seem to have come out alright.

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