Science & Technology

FTC's Nanny State App Rules Supersede Parenting

Like the government would trust parents to decide what's best for their kids


A thoroughly frustrated Ben Smith over at BuzzFeed is annoyed that the Federal Trade Commission is smacking around his favorite family phone app because of its data collection methods:

The Federal Trade Commission levied a $800,000 fine on the social networking service Path Friday morning for having, among other things, permitted children to use the service, a small social network meant for friends and family.

Smith actually wants his children using apps like Path to learn how to interact with people responsibly in the age of social media:

Path is an amazing teaching tool for that skill, because it's built for family and close friends. Children who come to the social web through Path learn an obvious lesson that eludes adults on Facebook every day: This is the real world. The people you interact with are real people, some of whom you know. Your words will have consequences in your real life — delighting and amusing your family, mostly; drawing the occasional scolding. Pretty much like being a 9-year-old IRL.

The federal Children's Online Privacy Protection Act, though, snatches the power to make some of these decisions out of parents' hands.  Smith notes that children respond to these restrictive privacy laws by lying about their age anyway, so all that really happens is that social media tools that actually attempt to be designed for kids or families have to endure this regulatory nanny mentality from the government, while children pop on their headsets and scream profanities at each other on Xbox Live instead.