Last Updated on December 22, 2020
Google confirmed this month that they inform children when their parents are monitoring their account activity. The tech giant claims they are doing so as a way of balancing the interests of both parents and children.
Their child-notification policies came to light after film director Robby Starbuck posted an update to Twitter, explaining that his 7-year-old child received a warning message from Google that his account was being monitored.
“Our 7-year-old son has to have Google for homeschooling,” Starbuck tweeted, “So naturally we setup parental controls but look what [Google] did. They sent my son an email to tell him his privacy is important to them and telling him we’re supervising his account.”
“Your privacy is important to us,” the company’s warning message to the child read, “and we want to remind you that your parent…is supervising your Google account.”
Our 7 year old son has to have google for homeschooling so naturally we setup parental controls but look what @Google did. They sent my son an email to tell him his privacy is important to them and telling him we’re supervising his account. Let me explain what they’re doing. pic.twitter.com/iGEFCTxPQ0
— Robby Starbuck (@robbystarbuck) December 10, 2020
When approached for a comment on this overt interference into the relationship between parent and child, Google representatives confirmed it does, in fact, notify young children when parents are monitoring their account activity and claim that in doing so they are adhering to UN stricture.
Google cited both the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and the recently passed UK Age Appropriate Design Code as examples of “child-privacy” activism to which it adheres.
The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child – which dates to 1990 – says, in part, that “no child shall be subjected to arbitrary or unlawful interference with his or her privacy, family, home or correspondence, nor to unlawful attacks on his or her honor and reputation.”
The British provision cited by Google is a bit more caustically ideological. It states that parental controls, while letting parents properly supervise their children, can also have an “impact on the child’s right to privacy…and on their rights to association, play, access to information and freedom of expression.”
“Children who are subject to persistent parental monitoring may have a diminished sense of their own private space which may affect the development of their sense of their own identity,” the code says. “This is particularly the case as the child matures and their expectation of privacy increases.”
The question Google’s interference raises is one of legal liability. Should a child engage in something illegal where the parents could legally be held liable, what complicity does Google claim in attempting to shield the child’s actions from the parent.
In most states in the United States the natural legal age for emancipation is 18 years of age. Special circumstances can sometimes see that age lowered.
In the area of a minor child driving drunk and causing physical harm or death to another person, parents are held liable. If minors consume alcohol at a home, the parent(s) are held liable.
By interfering in the parent-child relationship – and especially when the parent is paying the bill for the device being monitored, Google should be held to a level of culpability for it’s actions.