Face biometrics part of proposed California law regulating kids’ social media

biometric facial recognition

Proposed legislation in California would make it illegal for operators of social media sites and applications to accept new accounts from (and collect data on) anyone younger than 13 years old without the consent of a parent or guardian.

Adults could use biometric facial recognition systems to prove they are the legal guardian of a child and can authorize the minor’s social media subscription.

If signed by the governor, social media platforms could not knowingly approve a subscription request from someone presenting themselves as a child unless a parent or guardian verifies their age. It is not known when or if the bill will become law.

Multiple federal and state laws already shield minors from, among other practices, online data collecting and sale. The new California bill, AB 1138, would “deem a business to have actual knowledge of a consumer’s age if it willfully disregards the consumers age.”

In other words, this bill would protect children 12 and younger who answer honestly when asked their age as they try to access areas of the Internet.

Anyone who wants their child to enjoy social media access would have several methods, including biometric selfies, with which to prove they are the child’s parent or guardian, or, at least, will pay bills run up by the child.

The most straightforward method to prove they are a legal guardian with the authority of let a child subscribe would be for them to sign a consent form and send it to the social media outfit.

Parents and guardians also could agree to pay for each transaction occurring on an account, providing credit or debit card account numbers.

Alternatively, they could call a toll-free number “staffed by personnel who are trained to ensure that the person authorizing creation of the account is the legal guardian of the minor.”

Similarly, they could opt for a video conference with personnel who are experts at knowing someone is the legal guardian.

Guardians and parents also could give a social media firm a copy of government-issued ID “the validity of which the person or business can check against a database.”

There also is the opportunity to “answer a series of knowledge-based challenge questions that would be difficult for someone other than the legal guardian of the minor to answer.”

Guardians who want to introduce children to social media also could send a copy of a photo ID that the business could “compare to another photograph submitted … using facial recognition technology.”

This might not be the answer (or even an answer) to children witnessing the world through social media’s uniquely unbridled perspective, but the dangers faced by unguarded children online are no less real.

A 2019 report out of Ireland found that 31 percent of Irish children have played online games with people unknown to them. A similar percentage have social media friends or followers who are stranger.

Thirty-two percent have witnessed disturbing content, and one in five of them told no one about what they saw.

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