Today Britain rolled out strict privacy protections for kids, like requiring tech platforms to turn on protections by default.
The new rules are the most comprehensive protections to arise from heightened global concern that popular online services exploit children’s information, suggest inappropriate content to them and fail to protect them from sexual predators. The British children’s protections far outstrip narrower rules in the United States, which apply only to online services aimed at children under 13.
Microsoft has created an automated tool codenamed Project Artemis that can help detect patterns of communication used by predators to target kids.
Building off the Microsoft patent, the technique is applied to historical text-based chat conversations. It evaluates and “rates” conversation characteristics and assigns an overall probability rating. This rating can then be used as a determiner, set by individual companies implementing the technique, as to when a flagged conversation should be sent to human moderators for review. Human moderators would then be capable of identifying imminent threats for referral to law enforcement…
Microsoft was the company that also helped developed PhotoDNA, an automated tool to detect child abuse images. Now it’s moving to text.
The Federal Trade Commission is considering a revamp of the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA). Google wants to help them change the rules, and asked the agency to eliminate rules that categorizes anyone watching kids content online as actual kids.
In September, Google agreed to pay US$170 million to the FTC to resolve claims that YouTube violated COPPA by serving targeted advertisements to children under 13…After the FTC settlement, YouTube told creators that they would have to identify when videos are aimed at children under 13. When that happens, YouTube now turns off ads that rely on web browsing behavior and other targeting data, which earn more for YouTube and creators.
The Chinese SMA-WATCH-M2 was recently caught exposing personal data like location of over 5,000 children and their parents.
Siobhan O’Flynn writes about all the ways that companies like Google collect data from kids in violation of the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act. It starts when schools increasingly turn to Google services in education.
Alphabet Inc. dominates child-directed and child-featured content online through YouTube Kids and has now colonized online educational spaces through Google Docs, G-Suite, Chromebooks and the associated Gmail accounts for children that are required for use. This means that Google’s access to children’s data spans entertainment (YouTube and YouTube Kids), search and purchase histories (via associated parental accounts), and educational sectors.
Apple has shared a Ghost Writer behind-the-scenes featurette on YouTube. It’s a kids series in which a ghost haunts a neighborhood.
When a ghost haunts a neighborhood bookstore and starts releasing fictional characters into the real world, four kids must team up to solve an exciting mystery surrounding the ghost’s unfinished business.
You can watch Ghost Writer on Apple TV+ here, and watch the featurette below.
When we hear the word “surveillance” we usually think about the NSA, or perhaps tech companies like Facebook and Google. What we probably don’t think about is school surveillance used to spy on kids.
The new school surveillance technology doesn’t turn off when the school day is over: anything students type in official school email accounts, chats or documents is monitored 24 hours a day, whether students are in their classrooms or their bedrooms.
Tech companies are also working with schools to monitor students’ web searches and internet usage, and, in some cases, to track what they are writing on public social media accounts.
Despite arguments from governments that encryption would hinder their ability to fight criminals, this clearly isn’t the case. In a recent example one of the biggest child porn sites on the dark web was recently taken down.
No backdoors were needed to track down the owner of the server or hundreds of the site’s visitors. For that matter, the FBI didn’t even need a warrant. The FBI did not deploy its infamous NIT (Network Investigative Technique) to track down site users. The flaw was the payment system linked to the site. Users may have thought their Bitcoin transactions couldn’t be traced back to them, but they were wrong.
The Four Horsemen of the Infocalypse: Terrorists, pedophiles, drug dealers, organized crime.
The New York Times has a nice feature out today about how a mother found photos of her kids in a machine learning database.
None of them could have foreseen that 14 years later, those images would reside in an unprecedentedly huge facial-recognition database called MegaFace. Containing the likenesses of nearly 700,000 individuals, it has been downloaded by dozens of companies to train a new generation of face-identification algorithms, used to track protesters, surveil terrorists, spot problem gamblers and spy on the public at large. The average age of the people in the database, its creators have said, is 16.
I can’t imagine the gross feeling you get when you see your kids in a database like this.
Disney has partnered with Kano, a company that makes coding kits for kids, on a new Star Wars motion sensor kit.
The Bluetooth-enabled motion sensor includes a circular case, printed circuit board with nine LEDs, and two tops that contain Rebel Alliance and Galactic Empire iconography. Once assembled, it can be used to control lightsabers, Porgs and other Star Wars paraphernalia in a companion app that’s compatible with Windows 10 PCs, Macs, iPads and Amazon Fire HD 10 tablets.
The BBC has created a “digital wellbeing” keyboard for kids called Own It. It uses machine learning to analyze what a child types.
The Sarasota County Sheriff’s office compiled a list of 15 apps that they believe pose a danger to young children. Here are the apps on the list:
MeetMe, Grindr, Skout, WhatsApp, TikTok, Badoo, Bumble, Snapchat, Kik, LiveMe, Holla, Whisper, Ask.fm, Calculator%, Hot or Not.
Mattel has released its newest game, Hot Wheels Infinite Loop. Experience the insane challenges of real-time 8-player PVP racing while you smash, crash, and stunt your way to victory. Collect legendary Hot Wheels® cars like Bone Shaker™, Twin Mill™, Shark Bite™, Rodger Dodger™ and more while upgrading your fleet to compete in the ultimate racing league. The year is 2068. Hot Wheels® has unveiled the most amazing car racing experience: The Infinite Loop – an all-new racing sport where extreme stunting, crashing, smashing, loops, and tricks make legends and dreams come true. You can watch the YouTube trailer here. App Store: Free (Offers In-App Purchases)
At WWDC 2019, Apple announced stricter rules for kids apps. Developers of these apps aren’t allowed to use analytics within them. Ads would also be limited. Apple is now delaying the rule to give developers more time.
Apple says it is making the move in part to better protect users’ privacy by shielding children from data trackers, a move that has been lauded by some privacy advocates. But some developers say they fear that the new rules won’t protect kids — possibly exposing them to more adult apps — and could pointlessly reduce their businesses.
Maybe don’t make preying on kids your business model?
Apple now sells LEGO Hidden Side augmented reality kits on Apple.com, offering kids a fun way to explore worlds they can build.
A spate of Netflix preschool programming has been announced and geared towards kids aged 2 to 6 with educational content.
Beth Mole reminds us that scientific studies are more nuanced than a sensationalized news story. The Washington Post wrote about a study showing kids sprouting horns because of bad posture, and phones were to blame. But it’s probably bogus.
Perhaps the most striking problems are that the study makes no mention of horns and does not include any data whatsoever on mobile devices usage by its participants who, according to the Post, are growing alleged horns. Also troubling is that the study authors don’t report much of the data, and some of the results blatantly conflict with each other.
The U.S. government is investigating YouTube for allegedly violating children’s privacy.
The complaints contended that YouTube, which is owned by Google, failed to protect kids who used the streaming-video service and improperly collected their data in violation of the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act, a 1998 law known as COPPA that forbids the tracking and targeting of users younger than age 13.
Mattel’s new Hot Wheels Smart Track Kit is available exclusively in Apple Stores. Vehicles cost US$6.99, the Race Portal is US$39.99, and the Smart Track Kit is US$179.99.
With the Hot Wheels Smart Track Kit, Hot Wheels id vehicles can be raced on a track that incorporates digital tracking elements through an app on the iPhone or iPad. The system allows users to keep track of speed, count laps, build a digital garage, and more, providing a mix of physical and digital play.