Meta, Google may lock horns over age-gating, consent norms

Social media and internet giants Google and Meta are headed for a clash in India over the critical issue of age verification and consent management for young internet users below 18.Meta is likely to propose to the Indian government that the best solution to implement age-gating and subsequent consent management architecture for the parents of users below 18 is an app-store-level check, vice president of global policy Joel Kaplan told ET. Age-gating is the process of restricting access to age-inappropriate content, services or products by online platforms.

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“The right place to collect this information is at the app store level. That way, people only have to do it one time and then the app can notify them. We suggested that it is a good approach for the US to look at. In our conversations with policymakers here (in India), we have suggested that as a possibility (also),” Kaplan said during his visit to India earlier this month.

Google, on the other hand, is opposed to this plan and believes that while companies will need more than one option to implement age-gating and consent management as prescribed under the Digital Personal Data Protection Act, an app-store-level solution is an “excuse”.“The app store solution (proposal) concerns me a bit because it is an excuse (for them) to not do their work which is to ensure that they are protecting kids and that they have their solutions around age assurance and age verification,” Google’s vice president of government affairs and public policy Markham Cho Erickson told ET.

Also read | Age-gating rules apply to all firms under data law

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Companies which have proposed such solutions, Erickson said, are “inefficient” by saying that app-store managers such as Google should implement the age-gating norms, he said.

age gating

The scale of managing an app-store-level solution would mean Google looking at and vetting all the content that is being made available by these platforms to their users, Erickson said.

“It is very inefficient to say somehow that companies which are facilitating the download of the app should be responsible for ensuring that the content on the app is right for the right age. We work hard on our apps to make sure that is the case. But they should do the same,” he said.

Also read | Only kids-focused sites may gain from age-gating tweak in data bill

ET reported on November 23 that the ministry of electronics and information technology is likely to issue a definitive “risk-based” framework with multiple options for social media and internet intermediaries to ensure age-gating and subsequent parental consent management.

The DPDP Act, ratified in August this year, defines all users below the age of 18 as children and necessitates that social media or internet intermediaries, known as data fiduciaries, must not process any data of any child without explicit parental consent.

The provision has seen sustained pushback from industry executives who have raised concerns about the privacy implications of the tools or identification methods that are likely to be used to establish the correct age of children and their connection with the parent.

The ministry, however, finds merit in the provisions and may ask different intermediaries to follow one of the prescribed solutions to ensure age-gating.

While the DPDP Act has been ratified, the IT ministry is yet to come out with the executive rules for the implementation of the law.

The executive rules are likely to come out soon.

Also read | Government gives big tech an opportunity to show age-gating plans for DPDP implementation

Social media and internet intermediaries will need to design their age-verification tools on three factors, which are: determining the age of the user, determining who is the parent, and establishing their connection with the child, according to a government official.

“What we have suggested is that it can be an app store-level age check mechanism,” a senior executive at a social media intermediary had told ET last month.

“We have only two major app stores and perhaps they can come out with an API (application programming interface) that captures the age of the user and obtains necessary parental consent before allowing the app to be downloaded,” the executive said at the time.

Originally posted 2023-12-11 00:31:00.