Xbox has revealed upcoming changes to its parental controls amid a $20 million settlement with the FTC. The settlement comes after charges were leveled against Microsoft for illegally collecting children's data without parental consent, and the changes to Xbox's parental controls are a required part of said settlement.
In a post headed "Xbox FTC Settlement and Reimagining the Future of Safety on Xbox", player services CVP Dave McCarthy reveals that within the next few months, any gamer under 13 who created an account before May 2021 will require "parental reconsent". This means parents will need to reverify their account and grant permission for their child to keep gaming and doing other things on Xbox.
According to McCarthy, this process will be "as seamless as possible", meaning that parents should have all the information they need to reverify their child to hand when they begin. As ever, you can refer to Xbox's guidelines on creating family and child accounts if you need extra info.
The FTC's charges allege that Microsoft illegally retained data from underage gamers without parental consent between 2015 and 2020, and it also failed to disclose the information it collected to parents. In its own post, Microsoft says that the retention of data during the account creation process was the result of a "technical glitch" which was immediately addressed as soon as it was discovered.
As well as the changes to Xbox parental controls, the FTC's proposed order also requires Microsoft to do three other things. The FTC's proposed order will also need to be approved by a federal court before it can be put into effect. The extra provisions are as follows:
- Inform parents that creating a separate child account will provide extra privacy protections for that child by default
- Establish and maintain systems that delete personal information collected after two weeks if no parental consent has been provided
- Notify publishers when personal information disclosures involve children, upon which publishers will be required to apply COPPA (Children's Online Privacy Protection Act) protections to that user
It's not just Xbox getting in trouble with the FTC over child privacy protection. Last year, the FTC fined Epic Games a staggering $275 million for violating COPPA, as well as for using "dark patterns" to trick users into buying online content. Of course, neither the $20 million Microsoft fine nor the $275 million Epic wrist-slap are likely to be felt by either company in real terms given their size.