Instagram Wants to Know How Old You Are
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Instagram is taking a small step to prohibit kids under the age of 13 from using the app. Starting today, the Facebook-owned property will ask new users to enter their date of birth when they sign up.
The new policy only applies to new users, and tweens desperate to sign up can just lie about their birthday because Instagram will use an honor system and won't actually be verifying new users' ages.
"Millions of teens online often don't have any means to prove their age or identity and the ability for AI/machine learning to accurately identify younger users is still in its early stages," an Instagram spokesperson said.
Still, the new policy is part of Instagram's ongoing effort to protect younger users — and to not run afoul of the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA).
"In the coming months, we will use the birthday information you share with us to create more tailored experiences, such as education around account controls and recommended privacy settings for young people," the Facebook-owned service said in today's announcement.
COPPA bans internet companies from collecting personal data about those under the age of 13 without parental consent. As a result, most sites just prohibit young users rather than deal with the verification headache. But Instagram has never actually asked users for their age.
"Historically, we didn't require people to tell us their age because we wanted Instagram to be a place where everyone can express themselves fully — irrespective of their identity," a spokesperson said. That's now about to change.
There are some trade-offs with Instagram's new approach. On the one hand, knowing someone's age can help Instagram automatically apply the strongest privacy and security safeguards to its youngest users. But on the flip side, the same users are giving up their birth date information to a service owned by Facebook, a company notorious for mishandling's people personal data. However, Instagram says the birth date information will not be made visible to other users on the platform and only appear on your private account information page.