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Google forbids children to use it

Roger Browne [PersonRank 10]

Thursday, May 24, 2007
6 years ago9,593 views

From the Google Terms of Service:
google.com/accounts/TOS

"Your use of Google’s ... web sites ... is subject to the terms of a legal agreement between you and Google ... You may not use the Services and may not accept the Terms if ... you are not of legal age to form a binding contract with Google"

Probably every schoolchild in the developed world is breaking Google's Terms of Service. How can lawyers be so far out of touch with how the web works?

Philipp Lenssen [PersonRank 10]

6 years ago #

Hah. Same in the Germany ToS:

<<Sie dürfen die Services nicht nutzen ... wenn Sie ... nicht volljährig sind>>

Translation: "You may not use the services if you're not of full age [18 years]".

Roger Browne [PersonRank 10]

6 years ago #

To my surprise and shame, I find similar wording on a website that I'm associated with:
uclue.com/?page=terms

I don't think an age restriction should apply to people who do nothing more than read or interact with a publicly-published web page. I'll try to sort out some alternative wording, and I hope Google will too.

Reto Meier [PersonRank 10]

6 years ago #

I think part of the problem is that 'Accepting the Terms of Service' is essentially entering in to a contract. You legally can't do that if you're too young to enter in to a contract.

Not sure how you'd get around that though. The only alternative I can think of would be that people under that age can use the service without agreeing to the TOS – but that seems like a recipe for abuse...

Benjamin Jancewicz [PersonRank 1]

6 years ago #

Now that Google owns YouTube.... do these same services apply? :)

Travis Harris [PersonRank 10]

6 years ago #

whoops.... Guess I was really giving my son a lesson in how to break the law :(

MJ Rich [PersonRank 6]

6 years ago #

I think that issues like these where people are under legal age will actually prompt legal age to fall over time. If more and more sites and services allow their clientele to be, say, 16, eventually legal age will be considered 16. Whether or not this is a good thing is speculative.

Michael Zimmer [PersonRank 1]

6 years ago #

That's standard language in any contract or EULA. Minors can't enter in to contractual agreements (in the US, at least).

Jeff [PersonRank 0]

6 years ago #

This is most likely just a legal maneuver to avoid lawsuits from angry parents. I can't imagine that anyone in the world expects a web-savvy kid to not know, use, and abuse the Goog.

Reto Meier [PersonRank 10]

6 years ago #

[put at-character here]MJ: I wonder – IMNAL but it seems to me the issue isn't so much if Google has an age limit for its users, but rather that they can't hold people under legal age to their TOS. You can't sign a binding agreement with a 12 year old, regardless of whether or not you allow 12 yo's to use your site.

The situation, as I understand it is thus:
"You can't use our site if you don't agree to a contract with us based on our TOS. If you're under 18(?)(16?) you can't enter in to a contract with anyone. Ergo, you can't use our site."

In reality of course, all of this mumbo-jumbo just gives Google the right to ban / block people who are abusing their service – because if they're using the service they *must* inherently agree to the terms. I think the age thing just gives them cover for dealing with abusers that are under age.

Lawyer McNeil [PersonRank 0]

6 years ago #

Google's user agreement, probably more ignored than read, is a form of contract. In exchange for the ability to use Google's services, the user surrenders certain rights – like to sue if the user Gmails an important business document and it goes missing.

A person under the age of 18 cannot be held to a contract unless it is for certain necessities (food, shelter, etc).

Of course, I doubt that many kids under 18 will breach the agreement in any meaningful way. Google's lawyers must use all possible caution in drafting the user agreement.

Another Question [PersonRank 0]

6 years ago #

Can a person who is underage be bound to an implied contract? It seems that there are no express terms here (simply because the contract with a minor is void) but would the conduct of both parties, over a period of time be looked at if push ever came to shove?

Roger Browne [PersonRank 10]

6 years ago #

Google said:
"We have developed a clear Terms of Service for Google and we expect users of our products to abide by these Terms."
blogoscoped.com/archive/2007-0 ...

so the logical conclusion is that they don't want the business of under-18s.

asfdg [PersonRank 1]

6 years ago #

doesn't make sense.... a kid can do contracts... every time you buy something is a contract, but it can only do that if it assumed that parents would permit it (e.g. a kid can buy a chocolate bar, but not a high-end pc)

googling would fall into the chocolate bar section;)

Philipp Lenssen [PersonRank 10]

6 years ago #

> because if they're using the service they *must* inherently
> agree to the terms.

Does that really hold up in court, as it's not opt-in? So if I start a new website, link a Terms of Service at the bottom, and lure you onto my site, and the ToS has the Google legalese catch of you agreeing to the ToS by using the services... and when I then introduce a paragraph in the ToS that tells you it's mandatory for you as user to buy my print encyclopedia now... does this "sale" hold up in court?

Reto Meier [PersonRank 10]

6 years ago #

A contract is a civil action, so a judge is going to make a call on if he thinks the contract is valid – sneakily changing the contract is likely to make the judge rule it as invalid.

Similarly a contract has to pass a certain 'reasonableness' test. The idea here is you can't make a contract with someone that's unreasonable – even if they've agreed to it up front. There's been a lot of questions about the legality of various TOS, particularly for software and online services. You only know if they'll hold up once they go to court :)

In Google's case I'd say these terms are to protect themselves rather than to let them sue others. This way perhaps if someone tries to sue Google because their 13yo looked up pr0n Google can say that according to their TOS the 13yo shouldn't have been using Google in the first place :)

Tim [PersonRank 0]

6 years ago #

So my question is: Does Google use the data it collects from children under 18 to improve its services? You know how Google is always collecting user data, clickstreams, etc. to help it decide how to rank documents? Well, if it requires a contract with the user in order to use that clickstream data, and people under 18 are not capable/allowed to enter into that sort of contract, does Google prevent itself from collecting their data? Because if not, then Google is also violating their own Terms of Service.

Scott [PersonRank 0]

6 years ago #

How can a child be bound by a contract by that the child cannot accept?

Hong Xiaowan [PersonRank 10]

6 years ago #

Google, Adult only?
Are there many sexy,terrible and forcible contents on?
Does children users at Google special?
Can Google abuse their privacy?

Brian Mingus [PersonRank 10]

6 years ago #

The message is vacuous. If the minor cannot enter into a contract with Google over their TOS, they obviously cannot be legally forced to have this behavior, either. IANAL, but this is just so that Google can say the minor was aptly warned.

This thread is locked as it's old... but you can create a new thread in the forum. 

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