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Subject: Re: UKNM: Childrens Online Privacy Protection Act
From: Ray Taylor
Date: Wed, 26 Apr 2000 18:29:40 +0100

Sam Michel <samatchinwag [dot] com> asks

> but this law means a site can't gather any information on a child under 13
> without parental consent including setting a cookie on the child's

Protecting privacy is a good thing, particularly if we are talking about <13
year olds, for reasons that I hope are obvious.

But :

1. A cookie is not, in itself, personal information
2. Computers do not have personality and are therefore not entitled to
3. There is no way that I am aware of that you can identify the owner of a
computer connected to the internet from the computer itself, let alone work
out the owner's age.

You can, of course, use cookies, and other methods, to match internet users
to their computers using demographic data collected via the web or other
means. So, for instance, you could ask users of a web site to register
details including their age, and then set a cookie to identify the user's
computer next time they visit the site. This presumes that the user does not
lie about their age (eg as when a 12 year old boy wants to access smut and
is asked for his age). So if either of my children use my computer to
register for a site that asks about age, the site might presume my computer
is owned by someone under the age of 13. Without registration or some other
method of separately collecting the info, there is no way you can tell the
age of a computer user or owner.

All of which makes nonsense of any attempt to use legislation to protect any
child's privacy by banning cookies from being set on the computer they are
using at the time to access the internet.

What should be controlled is the compilation, maintenance and use of
databases containing personal information, as in the UK Data Protection Act.

Ray Taylor

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  UKNM: Childrens Online Privacy Protectio, Sam Michel

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