There are a lot of websites that ask users to submit and provide their birthday information in order to register to use their services. A few ask once you've registered, but I'm seeing more and more ask for this information before they give you an account.
There are some very good reasons why they do this.
First and foremost, they want to have an electronic record that you have declared your age. This is to protect them and to proactively deal with the question of age and the online identity that you assume on their site. After all, laws regarding what is considered a legal age for different online activities vary in every country around the globe and across all 50 of the United States.
But should you really enter your real birthdate?
It's my contention that it may not be in the best interest of your personal and online security to enter your real birthdate. After all, your birthdate is often used as a form of identification for extremely personal information such as medical and insurance records and bank or credit card accounts.
So when it comes to those websites that truly need that information to help confirm your identity (government, bank, credit card, health provider, etc.), it is very important - and often required - that you enter your real birthdate for legal and identification reasons.
But what about social networking and other general vendor websites that use the information need to make sure, for example, that
- You've legally declared that you're over the age of 13 (one of the minimum ages to use a number of social networking sites in the USA)
- You're actually over 18 or 21 if you are planning to engage with adult sites/activities
In these cases, these sites may not need to know your real birthdate, especially if you're over -- or, as in my case, well over -- the legal ages for anything you might want to do. What they're simply trying to do is have you state that you are of legal age.
In these cases, you may want to do what I have decided to do. When a site asks for my birthdate and it is not necessary for them to have my real birthdate for critical legal identity reasons, I simply enter another date -- but one that has special meaning for me (easy to remember) and is somewhat near the actual day and month in the real year of my birth (my real age). I enter the same alternate date for all non-critical websites that require me to provide this information.
This allows me to use my birth year / current age, but I am not providing these sites with my real birthdate -- just in case someone is able to hack that information at some point.
And everyone is happy.
- The websites are happy because they are assured that I'm of legal age and can make sure that I'm receiving all the advertising that they think is "age appropriate" for me. (Not that it ever really is...)
- I'm happy because I'm protecting some personal information that is important in other settings and doesn't need to be on the Internet.
By the way, I always set my personal privacy settings so that my birthdate doesn't show. If you care to wish me "Happy Birthday", I'm happy to receive those greetings any time of the year!
Have you found a different yet legitimate way to deal with this issue?
- Comments on Doe v. IMDB Privacy Lawsuit (ericgoldman.org)
- Design could help Facebook members limit security leaks (eurekalert.org)
- New Jersey DMV workers accused of selling identities for $200 a pop (arstechnica.com)
- State employees' birthdates protected from right-to-know request by panel's ruling (pennlive.com)
- 5 Things That Shouldn't Be On Your Facebook (monicoperez.wordpress.com)