Serious questions are being raised about how to control minors' access to online social networking sites. In an effort to forestall pre-emptive legal or legislative solutions, MySpace.com last month announced an agreement with 49 state attorneys general to convene a task force to investigate the issue and make recommendations.
Chief among the solutions the task force will explore are various age verification technologies. Such technologies are supposed to be nonblinking gatekeepers, automatically shutting off access to certain sites if the would-be user is underage, or keeping adults out of areas intended for minors.
Details of the task force were unveiled this week. The Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard Law School will lead the effort, which includes many leading Internet companies and child safety experts. The organization that I lead, the Center for Democracy and Technology, will participate as well, albeit with a healthy dose of skepticism.
Age verification not only raises difficult technical questions, it raises a host of legal and policy questions that have sweeping implications for the future of the Internet and its millions of users worldwide. To be legitimate, the task force, which will make a final report at the end of the year, must not only ask if we can build age verification technology that works, but should we?
What's the Problem?
The first question that must be asked is, ,what is the problem that needs to be solved?, Is age verification intended as a response to public concerns about risks to children posed by online predators?,