back to article Microsoft's naughty Cortana NOT ALLOWED NEAR CHILDREN

Microsoft's new Cortana personal assistant platform carries privacy concerns that prevent it from being used by children – but Redmond appears to not be alone in its pre-pubescent banishment. Redmond said that the voice-activated search tool in its mobile platform currently carries a minimum age requirement of 13 years, which …


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  1. LordHighFixer

    How long before..

    We get to see a vid posted of Cortana and Siri hooked up to talk to each other. Will they spiral out of control or will they run out of things to say and just be quiet...

    1. Roger B

      Re: How long before..

      kind of like this?

      On a note to the article though, has anyone ever met a parent who does not work in IT and who has switched on parental controls for their child's games console or phone? I persuaded my boss he should set up restricted access for his 12 year old son, it lasted for a few months until my boss forgot the password then forgot the email address he used to setup the account and then could not be bothered with checking every time his son needed to get a website approved.

      1. d3vy

        Re: How long before..

        Think that's bad? My step sister bought my nephew GTA5 for his birthday, he is 7.

        I said it wasn't appropriate and sent her a link to Trevor's cut scenes on youtube... Her reaction, ge can just play with the sound off...

        My kids dont visit un supervised any more.

        1. wolfetone Silver badge

          Re: How long before..

          You should give your nephew The Exorcist for Christmas, see how long it takes for it to be returned to you. Or Shaving Ryans Privates. Obviously, these two films are only rated 18 because of the sound also.

        2. Robert Carnegie Silver badge


 is one of 9 encounters recorded at that site with "Grand Theft Auto" and, mostly, disappointed younger players.

    2. M Gale

      Re: How long before..

      Will they spiral out of control or will they run out of things to say and just be quiet...

      I've done this with IRC chatterbots based on Bucket and MegaHAL. It takes a while, but eventually they seem to "learn" whatever they are going to learn from each other and reach some kind of equilibrium with the same messages going back and forth.

    3. lambda_beta

      Re: How long before..

      They won't run out of things to say ... they're female.

  2. Crazy Operations Guy

    Or more likely due to technical issues

    Voice recognition is already difficult enough, but throw in the squeaky and cracking nature of children's voices and you'll have your work cut out for you...

  3. Mage

    Data collected?

    Does MS, Apple, Amazon & Google data collection, processing, security and retention comply with

    a) US standards

    b) EU standards

    Is it even obvious to Joe Ordinary what is being collected?

    1. big_D Silver badge

      Re: Data collected?

      People outside the US have laws and rights? Well, gosh, we'll just about that!

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Data collected?

      And how do you even define 'personal data' if it's used to make speech detection work better, or to figure out what kind of backgroubd noise to reject? Are the formant characteristics of your voice, distilled to a form that makes sense to whatever algorithms do the detection, "personal data"? Or, in a different vein, if choices made by people searching for things are personal data, what about preferences for font types or colors for an IDE, or mouse acceleration?

      I could easily see a situation where it would be useful, as a developer, to get statistics on how products are used. But at what point does it become personal data? Are browser crash statistics personal? How about if they, say, broadly correlate with visits to skeezy porn sites?

      On the one hand, it's easy to see a scenario where nefarious developers snaffle information from kids to sell to marketers. But what about a developer of a kids' game who just wants to know if it makes sense to have 'chartreuse' in the UI color option list, or if nobody is using it?

      Has any of this even been accounted for in the legalese, or is everyone just kinda hoping to avoid scrutiny?

      1. big_D Silver badge

        Re: Data collected?

        Cortana and co are not just about voice recognition. It is the data they collect from your requests, searches, emails etc. that they keep to improve the process that are counted as personal data - ticket numbers with your ID on them, customer numbers, telephone numbers, working out relationships between you and your family and friends (E.g. call my sister - the assistant has to work out which contact that is and save a relationship to that contact to indicate that she is your sister). That is where the personal data comes in.

        It becomes personal data as soon as it can be related to an individual. E.g. telephone numbers are, generally, personal data, names, addresses, customer numbers, usernames etc. are personal information. Any searches which can be linked back to your user Id on the search engine are personal data.

        Under EU data protection law, they can't give/sell that information to third parties, unless they get your consent first - the opt-ins in most online registrations. At least under EU law most of them have to be opt-in.

        If they are letting the products be used in the EU, then they most certainly have to abide by EU DP law.

        And yes, it is a PITA. I'm the data protection officer for our company (all companies with more than 25 employees need one, at least in Germany).

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Data collected?

 just a pattern of behavior, like the putative preference for user interface color, wouldn't be considered 'personal data'? In theory it could be correlated with a specific user - for obvious reasons anything could as long as there exists a user to begin with - but since the data *itself* can't be linked to you - ie, 'purple' - it's OK?

  4. Mark 85

    Points for "thinking of the children"

    Quote: . If the current user is under 13, Cortana will refuse to answer queries.

    Which raises a question and then takes away all the points: How does it know if the user is under 13? The way this is worded is that it's an imperative statement or pure marketing BS.

    1. d3vy

      Re: Points for "thinking of the children"

      It knows because the user will have a ms account with their DOB.

      Same as an xbox kids account (in fact probably the same account for most people), kids accounts are linked to a parents account to allow control over privacy, purchasing and content available.

      1. Don Jefe

        Re: Points for "thinking of the children"

        It's genius really. Kids who can't sort out how to change their DOB will be targeted for direct brain stimulation experiments since they're obviously too thick to notice their product preferences are being manipulated.

        1. d3vy

          Re: Points for "thinking of the children"

          Well, no..

          Kids cant change those settings, they are controlled from the parents account...

          1. big_D Silver badge

            Re: Points for "thinking of the children"

            You're assuming that the parents are tech savvy and the kids haven't set up their own accounts, saying that they are over 18...

            1. h4rm0ny

              Re: Points for "thinking of the children"

              It's 2014. The era where parents grew up before computers were known has passed. Most of us with children had computers and probably smart phones. The whole "parents don't understand technology" cliche is old and tired.

  5. Daniel B.


    The "under 13" thingy means they're using that stuff for marketing purposes or selling your info for marketing. Oopsie!

  6. Winkypop Silver badge


    I had a Ford Cortana, with go-fast stripes!

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Cortana?

      I heard she's a bit of a 'goer', a bit of a sport. Know what I mean? (nudge nudge, wink wink)

      1. wolfetone Silver badge

        Re: Cortana?

        I do recall her looking rather lovely in Halo. Hubba Hubba.

  7. DocJD

    How do they know who you are?

    My sister has an iPhone which I can use with Siri and I have no account. Siri has no idea who I am.

    1. willi0000000

      Re: How do they know who you are?

      don't bet on it.

      [they probably have your DNA and fingerprints]

      1. Anonymous Coward

        Re: How do they know who you are?

        DNA? Are there some iPhone features I haven't been made aware of here?

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    MS & Scroogled ?

    Hmmm, no wonder MS dropped that bullshit campaign as they obviously are scanning your voice commands.

    1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

      Re: MS & Scroogled ?

      Did you REALLY need to remind me of SCROOGLED?

      Now I need to drink even more.

  9. johnwerneken

    Escapes me how there IS any such thing as protection of anyone

    Escapes me how there IS any such thing as protection of anyone as regards information. Information wants to be free. Who cares who knows what...if everyone could know anything anyone knew, the world would be far more peaceful and far more prosperous. Humans evolved where ALL community members directly or at most second had observed ALL activities.

    Privacy is just a Mickey Mouse attempt to deny totalitarian power to an organized community, be it a business or a State. Such communities HAVE no legitimate power in the first place.

    1. M Gale

      Re: Escapes me how there IS any such thing as protection of anyone

      Such communities HAVE no legitimate power in the first place.

      Yes, yes they do. Your idealism in no way matches the reality here.

      Nothing to do with "consent of the governed". Everything to do with them having fucking big guns. That's their legitimacy, and you challenge it at your grave peril. There is nothing, at all, that you or anybody else will ever be able to do about it.

      So yes, privacy is very important. Critically important in any society where the people in it wish to at least have a pretence of any kind of individual freedom.

    2. Don Jefe

      Re: Escapes me how there IS any such thing as protection of anyone

      What the fuck are you talking about? 'Communities evolved where all members of a community observed all activities?.

      Your ancestors weren't so bright huh? They probably never learned to write, otherwise you would have at least some remnants of stories about the magic men who made crops grow wherever they wanted. They gained their power by taking stones from the Earth and used their magic to create devastating weapons as well as tools to build giant caves above ground.

      Using their magic these demons tamed the wild beasts of the plains and the beasts carried them forth upon their backs to destroy idiots wherever they were found. Unfortunately, the idiots were simply too many in number and could not all be slain. The idiots were then enslaved and the not idiots built ever greater caves and gained even more treasure. They built towers that touched the sky and they gazed down on the idiots below and so it continues today. Hello down there.

  10. Will Godfrey Silver badge


    Is that 13 real years of of age, 13 apparent years - in which case I know some born pre 1970 that would fail, or 13th birthday (sux if it's 29 Feb).

  11. Chozo

    I Always Do What Teddy Says.

    "Teddy," he said "I'm going to pull up flowers from the flower bed"

    "No Davy pulling up flowers is naughty.. don't pull up the flowers"

    "Teddy, I'm going to break a window"

    "No Davy, ... breaking windows is naughty... don't break any windows"

    "Teddy, I'm going to kill a man"

    Silence, just silence. Even the eyes and arms were still.

    The roar of the gun broke the silence and blew a ruin of gears, wires and bent metal from the back of the destroyed Teddy bear.

    "Teddy.. oh Teddy... you should of told me"

    I Always Do What Teddy Says. by Harry Harrison

    1. king of foo

      Re: I Always Do What Teddy Says.


      should HAVE told me

    2. Jan 0 Silver badge

      Re: I Always Do What Teddy Says.

      I can't believe that Harry Harrison would write "could of".

  12. Kevin 6

    Brilliant marketing

    Its brilliant the marketing Microsoft done here.

    Name the personal assistant after an AI character in a game that appeals to a lot of kids in the 8-14 age bracket, then say they can't use it just making them want it more.

    Couple that with parent who don't give a crap about what their kids do, and will buy them anything to shut them up. I predict win 8 phones will start flying off the shelves due to this.

    1. tom dial Silver badge

      Re: Brilliant marketing

      Joke alert seems inappropriate here.

  13. Bruce Ordway

    Data collection

    I'm sure most kids will be just fine in spite of all the new technology but...

    I never had kids so I do wonder how they are coping with so many distractions.

    When I was 13, TV was the only "tech" I had access to.

    My parents maintained a schedule for viewing, there were only 5 channels with very mild content.

    I ended up reading for entertainment.

    1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

      Re: Data collection

      I do wonder how they are coping with so many distractions


      And the not-clearly formulated idea that money printing will solve their future problems.

      1. Anonymous Coward

        Re: Data collection

        Indeed, our descendants will undoubtedly look with shame upon these years of runaway half-digit inflation. By God, I remember back when I was in college in the 90s, and a 20 ounce soda was a dollar sixty! And now it's a dollar seventy! MAN THE BUNKERS, LOAD THR SHOTGUNS, AND COUNT THE CANNED GOODS! IT'S THE ABUCKALYPSE!

        Seriously, dude - monetary trolling in an article about data protection? If you reach any more you're going to need a chiropractor.

  14. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge

    Pure Shite Talking to Raw Power .... is Always Only Just a Few Unjust dDigital Steps Away

    Hi, Shaun Nichols,

    As reported by Ubergizmo, the data collection behavior of Cortana, in which some activity is logged and used to further personalize results, constitutes the collection of personal data and as such is subject to child-protection laws.

    And probably in all states and jurisdictions, and in all nations, both domestic and foreign and alien, at all ages below that of legislated adulthood and legal consent, would that constitute the grooming of a minor and be subject to some sort of punitive criminal prosecution, for is not grooming a minor across borders a recognised and accepted crime against humanity and a federal offence, United Stateside?

    And surely Microsoft, through its spokesperson saying in a statement to El Reg ….

    Children under the age of 13 cannot use Cortana because it was decided that such deep personalized experiences, such as Cortana, warranted more detailed disclosure and consent from parents than currently included in the Microsoft Account parental consent process, and Cortana does not currently offer a separate parental consent control.
    ….. is clearly talking monumentally false bullshit, if any children under the age of 13 can use Cortana when there be no one to stop them trying.

    1. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge

      Re: Down Voters Pure Shite Talking to Raw Power

      And .... if you're gonna vote down a post, at least share what you dislike about it so that all can share your displeasure. Manners cost nothing and any dumb monkey can be trained to click on a simple link. Don't be as a dumb monkey for they achieve practically nothing in human life. Speak up and speak out, and don't be a dummy unless you have nothing worthwhile to say. Then it be only natural to have your opinions disregarded and ignored and treated as just a phorm of electronic junk and cyber trash from a Virtual Neanderthal.

      1. Don Jefe

        Re: Down Voters Pure Shite Talking to Raw Power

        Indeed, manners cost nothing. Quite the opposite actually. Politeness and gentlemanly behavior are the quickest way to open doors where great treasure is kept and would otherwise be inaccessible.

  15. John Savard

    Nothing to see here

    The U.S. happens to have some paranoid and overly restrictive laws about retaining information from people under 13, and so lots of internet services are not available to children of that age. Cortana is just one more on a very big list.

    1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

      Re: Nothing to see here

      Yes, recently the US constitution seems to fall under "restricted access for children under 60".

  16. Vociferous


    >deep personalized experiences, such as Cortana, warranted more detailed disclosure and consent

    Couldn't agree more. Disclosure and consent is important!

  17. ChrisInAStrangeLand


    The reason for this is COPPA. Specifically it requires creating an orwellian audit trail of all personal information, or anything that might be construed as personal, or deemed personal, or contain content that is personal, of a child's activities. Basically Microsoft has to log everything every child on it's service does and email it to parents if at some time in the future they ask for it. Like every other provider they just say it's too hard and demand you tick the 13+ checkbox.

    COPPA is the opposite of child protection and should be abolished.

    1. Don Jefe

      Re: COPPA

      I'm reading this in the bright sunlight which caused me to think you had written 'this is because of COBRA'. Like in GI Joe. That would have been more fun.

  18. h3

    I wish I could have my Google account at the totally restricted level. Presuming it can use the play store and gmail. (Seems quite reasonable the level of restrictions especially if it kills the Google Checkin Service wakelocks that waste my battery for no reason that benefits me. I think I have managed to remove Google Now but making sure it can never deliberately be reenabled by Google without my consent would be desirable as well).

  19. Don Jefe

    Better Option Coming

    I've hired 23 software developers to create a better voice activated electronic assistant. The biggest problem with the current crop is they all have dumb names. Who wants to talk to Tom Cruise's daughter or a shitty old car? That's just lame.

    Going forward the name of the new assistant shall be Quetzalcoatl. He will respond to anyone bold enough to speak His name and the firmness of conviction necessary to complete the ritual and deliver unto Him The Sacrifice.

    It'll be pretty neat. I've spent a small fortune teaching Him pre-Columbian codecs and runes along with other forgotten knowledge of cultures long since vanished and soon He will descend upon all unbelievers. His arrival will be preceded by many signs. You know He comes, the signs cannot be ignored. You will know He has arrived when your phone is used by Him to carry the ancient words of of despair and longing: 'The Beast and his armies shall rise from the Pit to make war against God'.

    That last bit is a new feature. I didn't even know we were working on that. I just felt the need to say it. Now that's all is says. Over and over and over and over over and over and over over and over and over over and over and over.


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