Finally, Instagram has taken some initiative for its users who are on the younger side of the spectrum. After nine years, Instagram is done acting dumb about its user’s ages. Instagram is stepping up to protect underage kids from the problems with social media. It will require new users to feed in their birth date and then filter out the users from joining, who are younger than 13. However, Instagram won’t be bothering the existing users about their age and overlook any underage kids already amongst its 1 billion members.
Later, Instagram is going to start using the age information to offer education about settings and new privacy controls for their young users. It’s also adding the option to only allow people you follow to message you, add you to a group, or reply to your Story.
Mobile researcher, Jane Manchun Wong found out that Instagram is prototyping an age-check feature. The code, which she found, indicated that Instagram will keep your birthday private, and sync it with your Facebook profile if you link your accounts.
The Child Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA)
The COPPA bans online services from collecting personal information from children younger than 13 years. There is a fine of $40,000 per violation associated with it. Previously, Instagram had failed to shield its underage users. To avoid the fine it has relied on sheer ignorance about user’s ages. Now, rectifying the snafu, officials at Instagram said, “Asking for this information will help prevent underage people from joining Instagram, help us keep young people safer and enable more age-appropriate experiences overall”.
What are “Others” Doing?
Facebook, Snapchat, and TikTok ask the users to enter their birth date during the signup process. TikTok was fined $5.7 million by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) for violating the COPPA after which it built a separate section for kids. The section allows children to watch videos but not to post or comment.
A ‘weak’ excuse was given by an Instagram spokesperson, “Historically, we didn’t require people to tell us their age because we wanted Instagram to be a place where everyone can express themselves fully — irrespective of their identity”, referring to the time they took to add the age check.
Adding the age check is a good first step for Instagram. However, being one of the most tempting apps for younger users, it should consider how it can do more to verify the age entered by the user. Simply moving in line with industry standards should not be the priority of the app. Instagram deals with very sensitive data, which should be leading on safety rather than following the herd.
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