In a recent decision, CARU found Snap Inc.’s (Snap) Snapchat app to be compliant with both the CARU Guidelines and the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA).
“The company goes beyond minimal procedures to prevent under-age use” CARU stated. CARU determined that Snapchat is an app directed to a general audience, not intended for use by children. In reaching this conclusion, CARU considered that Snap’s Terms of Service clearly prohibit users under 13 years of age and makes no effort to market the app to children or provide them with an appealing user experience.
With that understanding, Snapchat is permitted under the Guidelines and Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (“COPPA”) to age-gate and block children under 13 from using its services, which it does. CARU then examined whether Snapchat does so effectively.
CARU observed that Snapchat utilizes age-gates and many safeguards to ensure that if children manage to breach the existing age-gates, they will not be able to remain active on the app. Additionally, all app features that touch personal data are vetted collaboratively through the legal team, product engineers, and trust and safety representatives to assure that children don’t use the app and that the company stays compliant with COPPA’s guidelines.
“Age-gates are one piece of the larger compliance scheme. The cost of doing business in the kids space is implementing privacy-by-design and having a robust plan in place. This is not to say that age-gates should not be implemented. On the contrary, what we are saying is that we can do better and we should try to do better than the minimum bar. We don’t want to eliminate the use of age-gates, we want to see them used as part of a larger system to keep children safe on the internet,” says Dona Fraser, CARU’s vice president.
CARU believes companies that go beyond the low bar of age-gating to incorporate privacy-by-design and systematic procedures of trust and safety should be given due consideration regarding their efforts toward COPPA compliance. Where companies have a comprehensive culture of privacy, good faith efforts may outweigh strict adherence to principles that may have outlived their utility in certain instances.For more information about CARU’s decision please visit the press release about CARU's decision regarding Snapchat.