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 is checked against the age data in user profiles. If the current user is under 13, Cortana will refuse to answer queries.
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.
A Microsoft spokesperson confirmed as much, saying in a statement provided 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.
Redmond declined to say whether it plans to change the policy or implement additional parental controls by the time Cortana reaches general availability.
But what of other mobile assistants? It appears that Redmond's mobile assistant might not be alone in being technically considered "age inappropriate" for some. For many vendors, the issue is handled upon activation and setup of the device.
Google confirmed to The Reg that using its Now platform on a mobile device or desktop requires a Google Search account, which itself carries an age restriction of 13 years in the US.
Apple's Siri assistant in iOS also requires the device be linked to an Apple ID upon setup. Like Google, Apple requires users be at least 13 years old to set up an account. Siri access is also limited with the iOS "restricted mode" settings, intended for use with children and students.
Both Apple and Google have student ID accounts for children under 13, which can be set up with parent permission. Those accounts operate with limited privileges and controls over the collection of user data. ®