Tech giant Google this week said it will introduce a new policy in the coming weeks that will enable those under 18 years or their parents to request for removal of their images from Google Image search results. Among a number of new measures, Google will also ensure that Location History remains off (without the option to turn it on) for accounts of users aged below 18 years. “We’re committed to building products that are secure by default, private by design, and that put people in control.
“And, while our policies don’t allow kids under 13 to create a standard Google account, we’ve worked hard to design enriching product experiences specifically for them, teens, and families," Google said in a blog post. During the pandemic, technology has helped kids and teens stay in school through lockdowns and maintain connections with family and friends. As kids and teens spend more time online, parents, educators, child safety and privacy experts, and policy makers are concerned about how to keep them safe.
“We engage with these groups regularly, and share these concerns. “Some countries are implementing regulations in this area, and as we comply with these regulations, we’re looking at ways to develop consistent product experiences and user controls for kids and teens globally," it said. Google said there are already a range of removal options available for people using Google Search but children are at particular risk when it comes to controlling their imagery on the internet.
“In the coming weeks, we’ll introduce a new policy that enables anyone under the age of 18, or their parent or guardian, to request the removal of their images from Google Image results. “Of course, removing an image from Search doesn’t remove it from the web, but we believe this change will help give young people more control of their images online," the blog said.
Google added that in the coming weeks and months, it is going to make a number of changes to Google Accounts for people under 18 across various products like YouTube, Search, Assistant and others. For YouTube, the company is going to change the default upload setting to the most private option available for teens aged 13-17. In addition, it will more prominently surface digital wellbeing features, and provide safeguards and education about commercial content.
In the coming months, Google will turn SafeSearch on for existing signed-in users under 18 and make this the default setting for teens setting up new accounts, it said. “We are always working to prevent mature content from surfacing during a child’s experience with Google Assistant on shared devices. And, in the coming months, we’ll be introducing new default protections," it added.
Google said Location History is already off by default for all accounts, and children with supervised accounts don’t have the option of turning Location History on. “Taking this a step further, we’ll soon extend this to users under the age of 18 globally, meaning that Location History will remain off (without the option to turn it on)," it added.
The company will also expand safeguards to prevent age-sensitive ad categories from being shown to teens, and will block ad targeting based on the age, gender or interests of people under 18. “We’ll start rolling out these updates across our products globally over the coming months. Our goal is to ensure we’re providing additional protections and delivering age-appropriate experiences for ads on Google," it said.
In the coming months, Google will also roll out new Digital Wellbeing filters that allow people to block news, podcasts, and access to webpages on Assistant-enabled smart devices. On YouTube, it will turn on “take a break" and bedtime reminders and turn off autoplay for users under 18.
On YouTube Kids, it will add an autoplay option and turn it off by default to empower parents to make the right choice for their families, the blog said. “Data plays an important role in making our products functional and helpful. It’s our job to make it easy for kids and teens to understand what data is being collected, why, and how it is used.
“Based on research, we’re developing engaging, easy-to-understand materials for young people and their parents to help them better understand our data practices," the blog said.
These resources will begin to roll out globally in the coming months, it added.
“Having an accurate age for a user can be an important element in providing experiences tailored to their needs. Yet, knowing the accurate age of our users across multiple products and surfaces, while at the same time respecting their privacy and ensuring that our services remain accessible, is a complex challenge.
“It will require input from regulators, lawmakers, industry bodies, technology providers, and others to address it – and to ensure that we all build a safer internet for kids," the blog said.