Privacy on byte, COPPA, and what we can do about it

Hello everyone!

I know that it hasn’t even been a week since byte released, but I want to put this out there now to make as many people aware of it as possible.
First off, a little bit of background:
If you were on YouTube or TikTok or followed the news surrounding the two platforms closer to the end of 2019, you probably remember the circumstances surrounding both platforms and the Child’s Online Privacy Protection Act, or COPPA. What COPPA states is that in the United States, it is illegal to collect information on minors under the age of 13. Both Google/YouTube and TikTok/Musical.ly were found guilty of doing so, and both were fined very hefty amounts. In addition, both platforms took drastic (and for YouTube, questionable) measures to prevent data collection of children under 13. TikTok made it where kids 12 and under could not share their own content, and YouTube implemented a new system where each creator had to check off whether their video was made for kids or not (which led to confusion and a whole big mess that’s been mostly resolved now).

The reason I’m sharing this is because I think we can all agree that we don’t want byte to end up the same way. I’m a pretty observant person, so this is what I have noticed byte doing:

  • The only way for people to sign up for byte is with either their Apple or their Google account. Both of these require you to be 13 or older to use.
  • byte’s privacy policy (https://byte.co/privacy) states very clearly what personal information it collects and how it uses it, and it especially has a small section near the bottom addressing the personal information of children under the age of 13. Here’s what they say:

The Services are not directed to children under 13 (or other age as required by local law), and we do not knowingly collect personal information from children. If you learn that your child has provided us with personal information without your consent, you may contact us as set forth below. If we learn that we have collected any personal information in violation of applicable law, we will promptly take steps to delete such information and terminate the child’s account.

In summary, they are saying, “byte is not made for kids (namely those under 13). If you find your child has been using byte and they lied about their age (as you can unfortunately do with both Apple and Google accounts), notify us and we’ll take care of it ASAP.”

I’m very glad the staff at byte recognized the problems concerning COPPA and made greater measures to avoid falling into the same problems as YouTube and TikTok. I respect that a lot. Hats off to you guys. :+1: However, knowing from experience how proactive parents were with their child using YouTube and/or TikTok (they weren’t), the reality is that very few parents are actually going to read this and follow it.

This is where we as byte creators come in. There are two things that I know we can do to keep our platform safe:

  1. If you see something, say something. If you find an account on byte that looks like it’s a user under the age of 13, don’t be afraid to email hello@byte.co about it. However, when you email them, be respectful and keep an open mind about it. Here’s a good example on what to write:

To whom it may concern,

Hello, I am [YOUR BYTE USERNAME HERE] on byte, and I wanted to notify you of a user who might be too young to be using byte. Their username is [SUSPICIOUS BYTE USER’S USERNAME HERE]. Please investigate them and thank you for running this awesome platform!

Sincerely,
[YOUR NAME HERE]

NOTE: please don’t go ahead and assume the user’s age without actual proof. Some people look younger than they actually are, so I don’t want to hear about an incident where somebody incorrectly assumed somebody’s age and a heated argument started. This message format is meant to say, “Hey, this person looks like they’re too young, but I could be wrong. Please feel free to check them out for yourselves.”

  1. Don’t make content geared towards younger kids. If you make content that appeals to general audiences, I’m not telling you to stop doing that and make more adult content. What I’m trying to say is don’t make any content that a little kid would watch, like nursery rhymes or kids songs (memes of these are obviously exceptions). I know you’re probably thinking, “I would never do that kind of thing! What’s the point if kids aren’t even going to be on the platform?” I’m telling you, there will most likely be that one person who thinks it’s a good idea to do that sort of thing. Don’t be that person.

I’m writing this not because I discriminate against young children. I’m writing this because I want to see this platform known as byte grow and thrive without having to deal with legal issues. And if you’re thinking, “Well, it’s not my problem if there are users under 13 on byte, that’s the staff’s problem,” then I have to say that you’re wrong. If byte gets hit by legal fines before it even gets off the ground, then this platform may not even survive after that at this early stage. Therefore, we as creators need to be proactive and protective of the platform that we love.

TL;DR: children under 13 should not be using byte in accordance with COPPA. If you as a creator want to protect your platform, be proactive and report to hello@byte.co if you see somebody too young to be using the platform.

Feel free to share your thoughts, comments, and concerns!

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