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Google opens data net, attempts to catch small children

James Temperton
19 Aug 2014
Child looking at a computer
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Google is reportedly working on a children's version of YouTube, with Gmail for kids also being considered

Google is working on versions of YouTube and Gmail for under-13s and will create new parental control tools to allow kids to be monitored online. Despite millions of youngsters already using its service the search giant wants to create specialist accounts for little Googlers in a move that could have major privacy implications.

Modified versions of YouTube and Gmail are both being considered, with a child-friendly version of YouTube already in the works. According to people familiar with the company the new YouTube system would allow parents to control access. The information collected by Google about children can also be controlled by parents, sources claim.

Millions of children already use Google services, with no safeguards in place to prevent youngsters from registering accounts. While anyone signing up for a Google account has to provide their age, there is nothing to stop children from lying to gain access.

Big internet firms such as Google are constantly looking to grow but signing up scores of children to specialised accounts is likely to be controversial. Earlier this year Facebook toyed with the idea of allowing under-13s to sign up for accounts, but has yet to introduce the feature. Facebook's proposal involved children linking their accounts to parents who could then monitor what was posted.

In the US there are strict laws governing the collection and storage of data on children and it isn't yet clear what Google's approach will be to this. There are also strict regulations on how information can be used to advertise to children.

Google, which makes most of its money through advertising and data, stands to gain significantly if it can find a way to squeeze extra cash out of younger users. The company said it did not comment on rumours of speculation.

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