ID to Ensure Kids are Kids Online?

A Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT) white paper suggesting that children get digital identity cards to verify their age and better protect them online. But not everyone is convinced it’s the right approach.

“It’s not 100 percent clear to me that there’s a compelling reason to validate the age of kids going to a social networking site,” Larry Magid, a technology journalist, child safety advocate and member of the Internet Safety Task Force (ISTF), told “Is the solution going to be worse than the problem?”

Microsoft’s suggestion (available here in PDF format) came in July in response to the ISTF’s call for solutions. The plan would require that government, schools, or private companies certify children’s identities and ages based on personal documents like birth certificates.

That also does not sit well with security expert Tom Rusin, who is president of data security firm Affinion Security Center.

“I’m all for new technologies to protect children online, but the best thing we can do is ensure that as little information as possible about our children is exposed to the Internet,” Rusin told “We find that once identity thieves get a piece of information, they work back from that to another and to another.”

The white paper marks the latest turn of events as online experts and government authorities seek to find ways to better protect children on the Internet, particularly when it comes to social networking sites.

Microsoft told that it has provided a copy of the white paper to the European Union as well.

Still, observers are skeptical.

“The only way to identify minors is through school and social security records and birth certificates,” the ISTF’s Magid said. “Birth certificates and social security records are off-limits by law.”

Microsoft spokespeople did not return requests for additional comment by press time.

Microsoft’s suggestion also may help to boost acceptance of its own digital identity offering, Windows CardSpace (define), and products from other vendors in the field.

Until recently, the market was deeply divided with a number of incompatible solutions. It began coming together only last year, through the Liberty Alliance’s Project Concordia. The alliance, a consortium of major technology players, is working on demonstrated compatibility with Project Concordia solutions earlier this year.

InternetNews Realtime IT News – Microsoft Pushes Digital IDs for Kids Online

Um.  Interesting, worrisome, interesting, best intentions, interesting, worrisome, withholding commentary until I hear more.  Click the link for further information.

Anyone else have thoughts on this?  I’m not one for placing any more information about kids online than necessary.  Having kids identified – even in the “best intentions” of IDs… I don’t know.  That seems like it could lead to loads of issues down the line (and freedom of usage = down the drain…). 

Thank goodness Larry Madrid is on the case.  That man is brilliant.  So is his partner in crime, Anne Collier (NetFamilyNews)– who I had the EXTREME pleasure of FINALLY meeting last week at Virtual World Expo ’08.  She is a VERY cool lady indeed!

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  1. October 17, 2008 at 9:53 pm

    Dear Izzy You might be interested in a unConference that I am working on with JoiPodgorny called Kids Online: Balancing Saftey and FUN.

    It will be an unConference immediately following the 7th Internet Identity Workshop where MSFT, IBM, Novel etc + interop projects like Concordia and OSIS have been working on the next generation of ID technologies.

    WE hope to end the day with a comprehensive list of best practices and next steps as an industry along with and engage with the ID technologists.

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