June 18th, 2012
Verifying Ages Online Is a Daunting Task, Even for Experts
By NICOLE PERLROTH
The New York Times
Just how hard can it be to verify the age of a person online?
After all, privacy experts have been complaining for years about how much advertisers know about people who use the Internet.
The answer, it turns out, is very hard. Despite attempts by privacy advocates, academics, law enforcement officials, technologists and advertisers to determine a person’s age on the Internet, the reality is that, online, it is extremely difficult to tell whether someone is an 11-year-old girl or a 45-year-old man.
The question arose last week after Skout, a mobile social networking app, discovered that, within two weeks, three adults had masqueraded as teenagers in its forum for 13- to 17-year-olds. In three separate incidents, they contacted children and, the police say, sexually assaulted them.