REDMOND, Wash., Feb. 8, 2000 — As the Internet grows as a tool for education, business, entertainment and communication, concerns about safety and privacy have naturally grown along with it. These concerns are most prevalent with regard to the Internet’s youngest users, who are less equipped to protect themselves from potential harm.
This very consideration — that personally identifiable information about children might be collected without their parent’s knowledge — prompted legislation that quickly passed the U.S. Congress. The Children’s Online Privacy and Protection Act (COPPA), which goes into effect April 21, requires that all Web sites obtain parental consent before collecting or disclosing personal information, such as an email address, postal address and telephone number, from children under age 13.
Taking a leading role in protecting children’s privacy on the Internet, Microsoft today announced Microsoft Kids Passport, a service that can help safeguard a child’s personal information online as well as provide third parties with an easy and effective service to comply with COPPA.
“A number of Microsoft initiatives have focused on assisting parents and caregivers with the three critical elements – education, adult supervision and technology – that we believe are necessary for kids to have a positive, safe online experience,” said Bob Herbold, executive vice president and chief operating officer of Microsoft. “With the introduction of Kids Passport, we are empowering parents to appropriately safeguard their children’s age, contact information and identity, while allowing them to tap into the extraordinary resources of the Internet. The inclusive design of Kids Passport also allows us to extend a straightforward offering to other businesses equally concerned about fostering children’s privacy online.”
A Safe and Fun Internet Experience for Children
Scheduled for availability this April, Kids Passport is part of an ongoing commitment by Microsoft to ensure a positive and safe online experience for children. Other recent initiatives include StaySafeOnline, a pilot program at 15 Boys & Girls Clubs across the United States where Microsoft funded new technology centers. StaySafeOnline teaches children and teenagers the basic principles of online safety through an online video featuring celebrity spokesperson Shaquille O’Neal. Microsoft is also a founding member and active participant in GetNetWise ( http://www.getnetwise.org ), a program that provides critical resources to parents and caregivers to help ensure the Internet is a safe, educational and entertaining place for young people to explore.
“Initially, parents perceived the Web as being similar to television since it only presents information to the user,
“said Brad Chase, senior vice president at Microsoft.”
However, the Web is different in a very significant way — it’s a two-way communication medium that can allow operators and users of Web sites to communicate directly with kids, and potentially use a child’s personally identifiable information for unintended purposes. Kids Passport helps parents protect that personal information, while allowing their children to access the vast resources of the Everyday Web.”
A parent can create a Kids Passport account from any computer with access to the Internet. Parents will be able to decide on a site-by-site basis whether they want to allow their child to use participating Web sites’ services that collect and/or disclose personally identifiable information. There are three basic levels of access that a parent can designate for each site:
No consent: child can use the Web site but not services that collect or disclose personal information;
Limited: third party can collect personal information, but is not allowed to share or display it; or
Participating sites will either secure parental consent or restrict Kids Passport members from using certain services such as newsletters, discussion groups, “pen pal programs,” wish lists or contests. As the child grows older, consent decisions can be updated to reflect greater responsibility.
A Turnkey Solution for Third Parties
Kids Passport offers the first turnkey solution available to businesses for managing parental consent and helping them comply with new government legislation.
“Businesses can avoid the costly and time-consuming resources necessary to develop and manage their own system,” said Margie Miller, product manager at Microsoft. “If a Web site is interested in allowing children to use its services, it can use Kids Passport to ensure the child has received the appropriate level of parental consent required for the use of its services. If the site is not interested in having children use its service, it can simply restrict Kids Passport members from doing so. In either case, the Kids Passport service can help the site comply with the law.”
The simple task of the third-party Web site is to decide which services require the different levels of parental consent. Kids Passport members that do not have the proper level of consent will not be allowed to use that service until consent is secured.
“The Kids Passport service is another example of a Microsoft ‘megaservice,’ ” Miller said. “Megaservices provide businesses with the building blocks to develop and run their own online services that are scalable, reliable, flexible and easy to implement.”