We realize that keeping an eye on today’s techno-savvy kids can be difficult for many of today’s over-tired, overburdened, sleep-deprived parents…so the next best thing might be to have computers keep an eye on the kids automatically, right?
To that end, the popular social networking Web site MySpace is planning to offer free parental notification software in a bid to appease parents concerned that their children may be engaging in risky or provocative behavior online. The move might also serve to fend off government critics who say MySpace should verify the ages of its users and raise the site’s age limit from 14 to 16.
According to the Wall Street Journal, the notification software is called Zephyr, and is designed to inform parents about how their kids represent themselves on MySpace, including what the children post as their name, age, and location. According to the WSJ, Zephyr will no enable parents to view email or messages sent to their MySpace profiles, or view the profiles themselves; children would also be notified that information about their MySpace identities was being shared with their parents.
MySpace has come under fire from civic leaders and states attorneys general, concerned that children may provide too much information in their online profiles—including details like their addresses, phone numbers, schools, activities, and other details of their daily lives—which may make them vulnerable to sex offenders and other criminals. Several states are mulling legal action against MySpace to get the site to raise its age limit and perform age and identify verification on its members.
Zephyr raises obvious privacy concerns for children, and also creates speculation that it could be used by people other than childrens’ parents to monitor accounts, thereby creating another possible vector for privacy violations or abuse.
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