Meta calls for parental approval when children under 16 download an app

Meta urges laws for Apple and Google app stores to mandate parental approval for under-16 app downloads, shifting control responsibility.

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Meta has called for laws requiring app stores run by Apple and Google to get parental approval when children under 16 download an app. Essentially, the proposal aims to shift the responsibility for implementing parental controls from social media companies to app stores. According to BBC, this move comes after a whistleblower told the US Congress that the company is not taking proper measures to protect teens from online harm.

Meta’s global head of safety, Antigone Davis, stated that app stores should notify parents when their children want to download an app to decide whether to approve it while verifying their age. This implies that the app store would request parental permission while Meta would continue to provide its age-appropriate features and settings for parental assistance.

Why does it matter?

Essentially, Davis claimed that the reason for the responsibility shift is to ensure effecitve protection as age verification methods in the USA vary from state to state. So far, no legislation has required app stores to implement age verification methods, as the focus has been on social media platforms. Utah has been the first state in the USA to enforce a law requiring, among others, parental approval when children create an account. At the same time, this has raised privacy concerns among civil liberties groups, believing that the constant implementation of age verification methods could change how users access the internet.

As The Verge pointed out, the problem is that even if there are age verification methods, including third-party approval or ID verification, birth dates may still be faked to create and account. As a result, lawmakers continue to propose stricter verification methods that could ‘amount to large-scale digital surveillance.‘ According to Cody Venzke, a senior policy counsel at the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), with so much legislation being drafted for the same issue, ensuring that they are ‘constitutionally sound and practical for children is challenging.