The Delhi High Court has asked Facebook and Google to file suggestions on how minors can be protected online in India within the next four weeks, reports PTI (via Indian Express), adding that the court has scheduled the next case hearing on July 16, 2013.
Facebook currently allows users above 13 years of age to register on its website, since its website is operated under the US Law Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) which allows children above 13 years of age to open an online account guaranteeing them all the necessary protection. However, since children in India are not protected under this law, the court has apparently ordered both Facebook and Google to file suggestions on safety measures to protect children in India, as indicated by the report.
This directive follows a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) filed by the former RSS leader K.N. Govindacharya, which stated that social networking sites allowing children below 18 years of age is in violation of the Indian Majority Act, the Indian Contract Act and also the Information and Technology Act, after which the Delhi High Court had asked the central government to explain why individuals below 18 years of age were being allowed to register on social networking sites. The petition had also sought verification of all existing and new members of the social networking site and had pointed towards the Know Your Customer norms applicable to telecom companies.
Agreement, Not A Contract: In response, the central government had reportedly said that individuals just have to enter into an agreement to the website’s terms and conditions while opening an account and they don’t have to enter into a contract with these sites, as indicated by the report. It also noted that there is no mechanism to verify the identity and age of a child from online account at present.
This was quite an expected response considering how cumbersome it would be to implement Know Your Customer (KYC) norms for customer verification on these websites, which could dissuade users from registering on these networks. Even if KYC was implemented, what about kids who register for these sites with the knowledge and consent of their parents? Further, why are social networks being equated to telecom operators and banks, since those KYC guidelines are primarily in place to address issues related to fraud and national security.