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The study, done by scientists at Lero, the Science Ireland Research Study Centre for Software found there are real risks to kids who are "easily" going around the age verification system.
Lero's lead scientist Dr Liliana Pasquale stated: "This leads to kids being exposed to personal privacy and security hazards such as cyberbullying, online grooming, or direct exposure to material that might be unsuitable for their age."
The research study which looked at Snapchat, Instagram, TikTok, HouseParty, Facebook, WhatsApp, Viber, Messenger, Skype, Discord apps checking the age confirmation process in April 2019 and again in April 2020. It discovered all 10 apps allowed users, to open accounts if they initially provided their age as 16, regardless of their real age
Europe's General Data Defense Guideline (GDPR) needs kids listed below the age of digital permission (13-16) to have proven adult permission for the processing of their information.
In the United States, the minimum age for accessing social networks is 13 as it was in 2000.
EU member states are free to set their age of consent, in between 13 and 16 years, resulting in different age limitations throughout Europe. France, Germany, Ireland, Holland selected 16. Italy and Spain set the age to 14. UK, Denmark, & Sweden choose 13.
EU member states are free to set their digital age of consent, between 13 and 16 years, leading to a range of age limits across Europe. Ireland, France, Germany and the Netherlands choose 16. In Italy and Spain, it is 14. In the UK, Denmark, and Sweden it's 13.
"Our study found that some apps disabled registration if users input ages below 13, but if the age 16 is provided as input initially then none of the apps requires proof of age. Providing mechanisms that deter a user from installing an app on a device on which they have previously declared themselves to be underage is currently one of the most sensible solutions not to incentivise users to lie about their age," according to Dr Liliana Pasquale, Lero researcher and an assistant professor at University College Dublin's School of Computer Science.
Dr Pasquale's study found existing data protection regulations to be ineffective: "In reality, the application of substantial financial penalties was the main trigger for app providers to implement more effective age verification mechanisms. Based on our study and our survey of biometrics-based age recognition techniques, we propose several recommendations to app providers and developers."
Robust age confirmation systems, motivating users not to lie about their age when opening an account, allowing the most limiting personal privacy settings and enforcing the minimum age and information processing and analysis.
Time Limits, Blocked Content, F Secure SAFE
TikTok has introduced improvements to the privacy and protection of children.
Users under the age of 16 now have their account set to private, meaning that the only people who can view their content are approved, followers.
Strangers can no longer comment on videos taken by under 16s, meaning minors have only two options: only allow friends to comment or omit comments altogether.
NSPCC, the UK children’s charity, praised the updates, which is designed to protect young and vulnerable users of the app.
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