If you run a community one of the tricky tightropes to walk is that of data protection and privacy. All to often communities fall foul of this, finding out their seemingly industry standard approach has dropped them in hot water, as Xanga found out.
Check out the story at MSNBC.com
Xanga.com, a rival to the popular MySpace.com, allegedly permitted creation of 1.7 million accounts by users who submitted birthdays indicating they were under 13.
It seems most pundits are focussing on the fact they do ask a persons age so ignorance is in no way a defence here.
“COPPA requires all commercial Web sites, including operators of social networking sites like Xanga, to give parents notice and obtain their consent before collecting personal information from kids they know are under 13. A million-dollar penalty should make that obligation crystal clear.”
I wonder had they not had the date of birth field (and bizarrely a separate “are you over 13?” tickbox) would they have gotten into this mess?
Obviously that particular community was a huge target to be made an example of, but if you do run a community of any scale it is worth checking you are not breaking any laws in your region. It is a lot more expensive to put right after the fact.