The minimum age at which kids can legally be held to a Terms of Service agreement might be raised from 13 to 16 in Europe. Currently, companies have to ask parents’ permission for children under the 13.
This is an interesting policy question. Businesses want the age of consent to be as low as possible because that expands their market (on the assumption that children are more likely to accept the agreement than their parents are). This explains why Google, Facebook and Twitter immediately came out against the change.
But these companies write their agreements to be at the level of a law school graduate, definitely not a 13 or a 16 year old. It seems disingenuous for them to argue for the lower age.
It would be interesting to use this as leverage to get companies to write more user friendly agreements. We can allow younger kids to accept an agreement if the company writes it at a level that kids can understand (both technically and the implications thereof). This might have better long term benefits for protecting all of us than a stricter age of consent.
So for example a 13 year old can accept Google’s agreement if it is written at a 13-year-old level. If they write it at a 16 year old level, then only 16 year olds could accept it.
But would companies do it? Would they sacrifice the ability to con the rest of us out of our personal information for the opportunity to market to 13-16 year olds? I wonder. I would love to be a fly on the wall of that boardroom conversation.
Or perhaps they could have different agreements, each written at different levels and served to different users. Lots of possibilities here. What do you think? Should the government (Europe or otherwise) raise the age? Should we align the age of consent with the writing level of the agreement?
Image Credit: Wesley Fryer