April 27, 2000 1:30 PM PDT

Child privacy law locks out some Hotmail members

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Microsoft's implementation of a new federal law protecting children's privacy has cost some Hotmail customers their accounts.

Some Hotmail members found themselves permanently shut out of their accounts after Microsoft enacted changes to comply with new regulations that mandate parental consent for Net users under the age of 13.

The Children's Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA), a federal law that went into effect Friday, requires Web sites that collect personal information to get parental consent for visitors under the age of 13.

"With the solution in place, we're finding that a handful of Hotmail users residing in the U.S. incorrectly provided an age that was less than 13 when they created their Hotmail account," a Microsoft representative said.

Microsoft said it warned U.S. customers whose profiles indicated they were under 13 that they would need to provide parental consent to use Hotmail after April 21.

But one adult who lost an account claimed no memory of being warned by Hotmail.

"I have been a Hotmail user for several years now, and don't think I ever registered as a user 'under the age of 13," the Hotmail account holder wrote in an email interview. "But even if I had--who can remember? They should have given us better notice of how to work around/verify the info and warned us we would be permanently locked out."

Microsoft offered no hope for getting those accounts restored to their original registrants.

"These accounts cannot be reactivated because the users provided inaccurate information," the Microsoft representative said. "However, these users can create a new Hotmail account and provide the appropriate information which will comply with COPPA."


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