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05NOV14 - COPPA and age restrictions explained

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Topic: 05NOV14 - COPPA and age restrictions explained
Posted By: GM Stormcrow
Subject: 05NOV14 - COPPA and age restrictions explained
Date Posted: 05 Nov 2014 at 20:26
Hi everyone,

I'd like to take this opportunity to explain what COPPA is, and why it is the reason we do not (and cannot) permit people under the age of 13 to play Illyriad.

We don't actually have a choice, except to remove from the game any player who identifies themselves as being under the age of 13.  Whilst we are a UK company, the servers now reside in the USA, and are therefore subject to a law passed by the US Congress, called COPPA - the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act.

We don't ask players for their age in game - in fact, we ask players for zero private information except an optional, non-verified email address they can be contacted at to retrieve a lost password.  This is precisely because we do not want to deliberately assume legal responsibilities for protecting personal data, and/or enforcing laws such as COPPA.

COPPA makes it abundantly clear precisely how we have to behave in *exactly* these circumstances, in  http://www.business.ftc.gov/documents/0493-Complying-with-COPPA-Frequently-Asked-Questions" rel="nofollow - http://www.business.ftc.gov/documents/0493-Complying-with-COPPA-Frequently-Asked-Questions  under the sections entitled:


"(b)  What happens if a child posts in a forum and announces her age?

If no one in your organization is aware of the post, then you may not have the requisite actual knowledge under the Rule.  However, you may be considered to have actual knowledge where a child announces her age under certain circumstances, for example, if you monitor your posts, if a responsible member of your organization sees the post, or if someone alerts you to the post "

... (for forum you can also read "chatroom").  The legal responsibility falls on us to either seek parental consent from the child's parents (a procedure that we're not willing to do as it introduces an extreme burden of overhead on a very small team.  I'm not aware of any games company out there who does this.  Our only other option is to delete all the person's information (ie their username, account and data), and prohibit them from further accessing the website.

The law is very specific on this, and it doesn't matter whether you yourself are a US citizen or not.

Regarding the "but you would never have known had a particular player not volunteered the information themselves" argument.  This is indeed true, but is not a defence we are permitted to make. According to Section 12:


"I know the COPPA Rule is triggered by the collection of personal information from children, but the information I collect at my site or service is voluntary, not mandatory.  Does COPPA still apply?

Yes.  The Rule governs the online collection of personal information from children by a covered operator, even if children volunteer the information or are not required by the operator to input the information to participate on the website or service. "

So once someone volunteers the information that they are under the age of 13, we are held to "know" this, and must, legally, act on it by removing them from the game.

Regarding the faintly ridiculous "But I was only joking" argument... it might surprise you to know that the FTC actually has a section on the measures that website operators such as us should take if someone identifies themselves as under the age of 13 and then later tries to amend their age if, for example, they suddenly find themselves unable to use the website.  

The FTC website even has a section entitled "Am I responsible if children lie about their age during the registration process on my general audience website?"  to which the answer is "yes" - once we are aware that the person claims that they are under the age of 13: "operators will be held to have acquired actual knowledge of having collected personal information from a child where, for example, they later learn of a child’s age"

I am, of course, sad to see anyone leave the game - but I think many players are assuming that removing players from the game under the COPPA law is something we actually have a choice about, like it's a decision that we've made or that we're choosing to apply rules in a particularly Draconian way.  Whatever you or I may personally think about the law is moot... we don't have a choice.  It's not optional for us, when someone identifies themselves as being under the age of 13 - then that's it - and if they're lying/joking then that's too bad too.

If you don't like this law and you are a US citizen, then please do write to your congressman.  If you don't like this law and are not a US citizen, it may surprise or shock you to know that the FTC have applied it (far outside their jurisdiction, in my opinion) to actually say "The law’s definition of “operator” includes foreign-based websites and online services that are involved in commerce in the United States or its territories.".  So, basically any website in the world that can be accessed from the USA should technically comply with COPPA though I do wonder how the FTC intends to enforce this.  We, however, have to comply, as our gameservers are located in the USA. 

I hope that helps explain a little bit more about the legislation and why we don't have any choice in whether we apply it or not.

Regards,

SC

EDIT: added italics to some quoted sections


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GM Stormcrow | http://bit.ly/rLKfoT" rel="nofollow - Twitter | http://on.fb.me/uvfajA" rel="nofollow - Facebook | http://bit.ly/rBzlzf" rel="nofollow - G+



Replies:
Posted By: GM Rikoo
Date Posted: 05 Nov 2014 at 20:31
Feel free to ask questions, but off-topic questions or questions about particular players will be deleted. 

GM Rikoo




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Illyriad Community Manager / Public Relations / community@illyriad.co.uk


Posted By: Jane DarkMagic
Date Posted: 05 Nov 2014 at 20:45
Why did you wait to post this until after someone got banned for an innocent joke?  Seems like it would have been wiser to post it as soon as it became applicable.


Posted By: GM Rikoo
Date Posted: 05 Nov 2014 at 20:53
Originally posted by Jane DarkMagic Jane DarkMagic wrote:

Why did you wait to post this until after someone got banned for an innocent joke?  Seems like it would have been wiser to post it as soon as it became applicable.

Hindsight is 20/20 I guess. But, we did have it posted in several locations for a very, very long time and had several discussions on this topic in-game and elsewhere. Sorry you missed those!

I will promise you that even as we post this, people will claim they never saw it. We can't go into people's brains directly. Yet.

Thanks,


GM Rikoo




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Illyriad Community Manager / Public Relations / community@illyriad.co.uk


Posted By: GM Stormcrow
Date Posted: 05 Nov 2014 at 20:54
Originally posted by Jane DarkMagic Jane DarkMagic wrote:

Why did you wait to post this until after someone got banned for an innocent joke?  Seems like it would have been wiser to post it as soon as it became applicable.

It was announced in Rikoo's http://forum.illyriad.co.uk/chat-updates-and-community-reminders_topic5573.html" rel="nofollow - Chat & Community rules update , it's in GM Rikoo's ingame profile, it's in the first post (of only three) in the http://forum.illyriad.co.uk/rules_forum3.html" rel="nofollow - Rules Of The Game section of the forum, and it's in the ingame patchnotes.

All of which were posted when they became active - back in May this year.

Regards,

SC


Posted By: Lagavulin
Date Posted: 05 Nov 2014 at 21:05
  1.  

2.    Who is covered by COPPA?

The Rule applies to operators of commercial websites and online services (including mobile apps) directed to children under 13 that collect, use, or disclose personal information from children.  It also applies to operators of general audience websites or online services with actual knowledge that they are collecting, using, or disclosing personal information from children under 13.  The Rule also applies to websites or online services that have actual knowledge that they are collecting personal information directly from users of another website or online service directed to children. 
 

3.    What is Personal Information?

The amended Rule defines personal information to include:

  • First and last name;
  • A home or other physical address including street name and name of a city or town;
  • Online contact information;
  • A screen or user name that functions as online contact information;
  • A telephone number;
  • A social security number;
  • A persistent identifier that can be used to recognize a user over time and across different websites or online services;
  • A photograph, video, or audio file, where such file contains a child’s image or voice;
  • Geolocation information sufficient to identify street name and name of a city or town; or
  • Information concerning the child or the parents of that child that the operator collects online from the child and combines with an identifier described above.


Posted By: SimplyDivine
Date Posted: 05 Nov 2014 at 21:12
The devs are completely ignoring the obvious...the issue was not the law or the ToS or anything else...the issue is and always has been the heavy-handed and often selective enforcement of the rules.

Prime Example...After Moka was banned, a certain player stated twice in GC that he was 12 and he was NOT banned. I've had several igms from him, and he's choosing to stay out of GC, but his account is still active.

The real question here is...why are some players banned and others not? Is there a set of "rules" to cover that glaring inconsistency? I completely understand the Devs' compliance with the statutes, but to hide behind paragraph after paragraph of legal jargon does NOT change the lack of consistency in enforcement that has angered so many players.




Posted By: Lagavulin
Date Posted: 05 Nov 2014 at 21:15

"1.    Am I responsible if children lie about their age during the registration process on my general audience website?

The Rule does not require operators of general audience sites to investigate the ages of visitors to their sites or services.  See  http://www.ftc.gov/os/1999/10/64fr59888.pdf" rel="nofollow - 1999 Statement of Basis and Purpose , 64 Fed. Reg. 59888, 59892.  However, operators will be held to have acquired actual knowledge of having collected personal information from a child where, for example, they later learn of a child’s age or grade from a concerned parent who has learned that his child is participating on the site or service. "


This section who's header only is quoted by Stormcrow clearly applies to persons who lie about their age when registering.  Specifically it is about a 12, or younger, person claiming to be older when joining and then letting it slip to the site operator that they are younger.  In that case the operator is supposed to take action.  It is not about, and does not say it is about, a person who jokes, or lies, about being younger.



Posted By: Lagavulin
Date Posted: 05 Nov 2014 at 21:19

"(b)  What happens if a child posts in a forum and announces her age?

If no one in your organization is aware of the post, then you may not have the requisite actual knowledge under the Rule.  However, you may be considered to have actual knowledge where a child announces her age under certain circumstances, for example, if you monitor your posts, if a responsible member of your organization sees the post, or if someone alerts you to the post ""

Moka is not a child.  This section is about children, not persons claiming an age.  Now the owners of the site are certainly allowed to take her at her word rather than investigate the chat.  If this is happening frequently then a time management calculation may make that a rational choice.  How many times has this happened?


Posted By: GM Stormcrow
Date Posted: 05 Nov 2014 at 21:34
Originally posted by SimplyDivine SimplyDivine wrote:

Prime Example...After Moka was banned, a certain player stated twice in GC that he was 12 and he was NOT banned. I've had several igms from him, and he's choosing to stay out of GC, but his account is still active.
So wait... now we're not banning enough people?!

I'm not personally aware of other people in GC claiming to be 12, but I can assure you that feeding the manufactured outrage of a few players apparently desperate for an "I am Spartacus" martyrdom to give everyone another stick to beat Rikoo with for being heavy-handed was certainly not on my agenda for the week, sorry to say.

We always consider context, and we have to run with what we believe to be the case based on our knowledge, but we're not infallible.

Originally posted by Lagavulin Lagavulin wrote:

Specifically it is about a 12, or younger, person claiming to be older when joining and then letting it slip to the site operator that they are younger.  In that case the operator is supposed to take action.
Which is exactly what happened in this case.  I'm not sure what your point is here?  Maybe I didn't explain my original point very well, for which apologies.

Originally posted by Lagavulin Lagavulin wrote:

This section is about children, not persons claiming an age.  
... is a quite extraordinary statement that I don't really know how to process, as I'm not, sadly, omniscient Tongue

Regards,

SC




Posted By: Ubiquitous Feral
Date Posted: 05 Nov 2014 at 21:42
Will the minor's cities disappear? It seems wrong to me for someone to use the leftover resources. I think the issue is far too serious for that. Just make the map the way it was when the account was begun?

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Ubiquitous Feral


Posted By: Lagavulin
Date Posted: 05 Nov 2014 at 21:46
She was not a minor Ubiquitous.  If she had been this would not be such a hot button issue.


Posted By: Baesil
Date Posted: 05 Nov 2014 at 21:48
If the company were genuinely trying to be COPPA compliant, it would have had a self verification at log in or at character creation. This is an easy fix, so easy it was apparently done overnight to cover for what seems to be unexpected blowback from a rash, arbitrary, and disproportionate decision.




Posted By: Lagavulin
Date Posted: 05 Nov 2014 at 21:51
 Stormcrow,

 

"Specifically it is about a 12, or younger, person claiming to be older when joining and then letting it slip to the site operator that they are younger.  In that case the operator is supposed to take action." - Lagavulin

"

Which is exactly what happened in this case.  I'm not sure what your point is here?  Maybe I didn't explain my original point very well, for which apologies." - Stormcrow

 

Stormcrow, I think you did not read to the end of my paragraph.  The very next line was "It is not about, and does not say it is about, a person who jokes, or lies, about being younger."



Posted By: GM Stormcrow
Date Posted: 05 Nov 2014 at 21:55
Originally posted by Lagavulin Lagavulin wrote:

 Stormcrow, I think you did not read to the end of my paragraph.  The very next line was "It is not about, and does not say it is about, a person who jokes, or lies, about being younger."
Oh, kk - I get it now. 

It's about people who joke or lie about being older, and then self-identify as being younger.  

Thanks for bringing clarity.

Regards,

SC


Posted By: GM Stormcrow
Date Posted: 05 Nov 2014 at 21:57
Originally posted by Baesil Baesil wrote:

If the company were genuinely trying to be COPPA compliant, it would have had a self verification at log in or at character creation. This is an easy fix, so easy it was apparently done overnight to cover for what seems to be unexpected blowback from a rash, arbitrary, and disproportionate decision.

You could put it like that.  Or perhaps you could instead say that it's a great example of a rapid and responsive team taking and implementing a suggestion from a player on a hot-button issue to hopefully improve the experience for everyone?

Regards,

SC


Posted By: GM Rikoo
Date Posted: 05 Nov 2014 at 21:59
Originally posted by Ubiquitous Feral Ubiquitous Feral wrote:

Will the minor's cities disappear? It seems wrong to me for someone to use the leftover resources. I think the issue is far too serious for that. Just make the map the way it was when the account was begun?

If a player is banned from a game, eventually their cities will fade from the map unless used somehow. (attacked, etc.) Nothing changes, it's the same as if a player left the game or abandoned. 

If you need more on the topic, go here:  http://www.illyriad.co.uk/Support/Account" rel="nofollow - http://www.illyriad.co.uk/Support/Account

Thanks!


GM Rikoo




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Illyriad Community Manager / Public Relations / community@illyriad.co.uk


Posted By: Ellieh
Date Posted: 05 Nov 2014 at 22:01
Since this issue has apparently been resolved after the fact, is it possible that a player that this affected before the "fix" was put into place could now go about proving their age to Illyriad employees, by means of providing proof of date of birth?  I realize that Illyriad does not want to do this for everyone, but as it has been stated, this would not be necessary since this issue has been remedied with the new fix last night, and only one member that I am aware of is actively asking to come back to the game following an age-related ban.  Therefore, it does not seem that it would be of great concern to verify one person's age. 

This solution would take a short period of time out of one employees day (most of the burden would be on the player providing the documentation) and would satisfy many customers of the game, therefore stopping more players from leaving, ending the barrage of questions and complaints in GC, via IGM, on this forum post, via email, etc. 


Posted By: GM Rikoo
Date Posted: 05 Nov 2014 at 22:12
Originally posted by Ellieh Ellieh wrote:

Since this issue has apparently been resolved after the fact, is it possible that a player that this affected before the "fix" was put into place could now go about proving their age to Illyriad employees, by means of providing proof of date of birth?  I realize that Illyriad does not want to do this for everyone, but as it has been stated, this would not be necessary since this issue has been remedied with the new fix last night, and only one member that I am aware of is actively asking to come back to the game following an age-related ban.  Therefore, it does not seem that it would be of great concern to verify one person's age. 

This solution would take a short period of time out of one employees day (most of the burden would be on the player providing the documentation) and would satisfy many customers of the game, therefore stopping more players from leaving, ending the barrage of questions and complaints in GC, via IGM, on this forum post, via email, etc. 

No, this will not be possible. And if it was possible, we would not discuss it in the forums. 

GM Rikoo

EDIT: See below. :)




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Illyriad Community Manager / Public Relations / community@illyriad.co.uk


Posted By: GM Stormcrow
Date Posted: 05 Nov 2014 at 22:14
Originally posted by Ellieh Ellieh wrote:

Since this issue has apparently been resolved after the fact, is it possible that a player that this affected before the "fix" was put into place could now go about proving their age to Illyriad employees, by means of providing proof of date of birth?  I realize that Illyriad does not want to do this for everyone, but as it has been stated, this would not be necessary since this issue has been remedied with the new fix last night, and only one member that I am aware of is actively asking to come back to the game following an age-related ban.  Therefore, it does not seem that it would be of great concern to verify one person's age. 

This solution would take a short period of time out of one employees day (most of the burden would be on the player providing the documentation) and would satisfy many customers of the game, therefore stopping more players from leaving, ending the barrage of questions and complaints in GC, via IGM, on this forum post, via email, etc. 
I'm afraid not.

This idea has two major issues:

1. It means we'd have to receive & handle personal data to prove age (driving licence, credit card, whatever) about an individual that we don't want to have legal duty of care to handle.  We store as little personal data as humanly possible, and is why we don't (for example) process our own credit card transactions, instead using PayPal and google wallet to handle sensitive personal data on our behalf.  We're simply not set up to handle personal data under any of the relevant legislation (the UK's Data Protection Act, or the ISO 270001 certification) for handling or storing personal data securely.

2. Even if we could, we wouldn't want to set this precedent even as a one-off, as it would fall precisely into the category of "selective enforcement of the rules" and arbitrariness that we're accused of on the previous page.

Regards,

SC




Posted By: Ubiquitous Feral
Date Posted: 05 Nov 2014 at 22:15
OK, this is the best I can come up with...If the Illy Team does anything besides what they have posted here, they will be taking on a great deal of work. 1st, 2 new hires. To screen all accounts, monitor chat in 12 hour shifts, and keep the doughnut room stocked. 2nd, 1 new hire. An attorney. Or at least a really good paralegal. 3rd, these 3 new hires can be transfers from the Illy Team themselves, since the money and time will keep them away from doing all those things we are very happy about. I vote let the under 13's play in a different sandbox. Ubi has left the room.

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Ubiquitous Feral


Posted By: SimplyDivine
Date Posted: 05 Nov 2014 at 22:19
Quite clearly, I hit a nerve...resorting to characterizing people as self-proclaimed martyrs and desperate to beat anyone with a stick of manufactured outrage pretty much says all it needs to say. I stated what I thought to be a carefully worded assessment of the situation and the resultant escalation of emotions and have been met with exactly the type of language/sarcasm that would get most players a verbal warning from Rikoo in GC. 

Come to think of it, this is quite amusing...and I applaud the fact that so many others have had a chance to see this unfold. And with that, I conclude my participation in this discussion. I have no further desire to be insulted (directly or indirectly), and more importantly, the pizza delivery person is ringing my doorbell. Adios!


Posted By: GM Stormcrow
Date Posted: 05 Nov 2014 at 22:22
Sorry SimplyDivine - it wasn't actually aimed at you (unless you're saying "I am 12" in global chat?), and it was going for "tongue-in-cheek" rather than insulting.  

I do, however, unreservedly apologise if it didn't come across that way!  Not my intention at all.

Regards,

SC


Posted By: Ellieh
Date Posted: 05 Nov 2014 at 22:24
On Rikoo's response, I am a bit confused.  

***Rikoo EDIT: Do not use information from interactions between devs and yourself. This is a commonly known rule. Stick to the topic at hand or be removed from the forums. Edited out the part where this player says what went on between a GM and herself, even though it was false (perfect reason to remove it.) ***

Thank you for your response, Stormcrow.  I understand point number 1.  For point number 2, I guess what I was suggesting was that because you have put a fix into place, and there would be no precedent set, because you have now put age verification measures into place, correct?

Lastly, I think that the statement someone made about arbitrary enforcement of rules come from the statements that I know that I have at least heard that different players receive different consequences, because we are all individual players and cannot all be disciplined the same way.  Some players only require warnings, while some require much stricter consequences.  There is no specific consequence for a specific action; it depends on who the player is according to Rikoo.  I am not giving an opinion over this practice, only suggesting that this may be one place that the statement stems from. 


Posted By: Twist
Date Posted: 05 Nov 2014 at 22:31
only voicing my opinion, for what it's worth.... and asking a simple question.... GM Stormcrow has stated that context is always considered.... as this is a section of chat log that resulted in the ban, I think that's within forum rules?
14:23]<Moka [TFotR]> im trying to have it rdy Baesil but to much work so its gonna take some time
[14:23]<Baesil [mCrow]> dont leave the sex parts out
[14:23]<Moka [TFotR]> ill write all!!!
[14:24]<Smoking GNU [DiL]> spoken like a true 12 y.o.
[14:24]<Moka [TFotR]> haha
[14:24]<Moka [TFotR]> wth do you remember that im 12 hmm
[14:24]<Moka [TFotR]> damn
[14:24]<Smoking GNU [DiL]> i meant baesil
[14:25]<Moka [TFotR]> oh crap
[14:25]<Moka [TFotR]>
[14:26]<NoneTooBright [~NS~]> you wanna be 12?
[14:27]<System> ** News Flash: Mikia (Abandoned)'s burgeoning city of Cushland is now under siege by Noles' [WoM] sprawling city of FISHER
[14:29]*Moka [TFotR] is 12
[14:29]<NoneTooBright [~NS~]> hmmmm
[14:29]<GM Rikoo [DEVS]> Moka is 12?
[14:29]<Moka [TFotR]> oops
[14:29]<GM Rikoo [DEVS]> Alright then.
this chat log has not been edited, gives the context of the conversation... fair or unfair to post as it is?
now, everyone understands that Moka claimed to be 12, as a 1-off joke, an isolated joke, and considering the context of the conversation, this "joke" has been a running theme throughout GC for months and more... where was the opportunity to allow Moka to say she had only been joking? everyone knows Moka, certainly the devs do.... and you think she could possibly be 12??
I do not try and "poke" the issue... I want to see fairness and a reasonable resolution, unforunately it looks like there is a policy of zero tolerance...on 1 occasion, others may be allowed to joke as they like, have done on numerous occasions
to single out 1 person like this, unfairly.... and then correct some oversights after the event, without any chance of withdrawing a ban implemented before those oversights were corrected?
you're Game Developers, no one expects you to be legal experts, but just a little common sense and flexibility?


Posted By: Jane DarkMagic
Date Posted: 05 Nov 2014 at 22:36
+1 Twist


Posted By: GM Rikoo
Date Posted: 05 Nov 2014 at 22:39
I am closing this thread now, as a few of you cannot stick to the rule of avoiding the topic of a specific player. Posting CLIPPED sections of the GC log is not good for a discussion.

GM Rikoo




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Illyriad Community Manager / Public Relations / community@illyriad.co.uk



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