Valve blocks kids from Steam via new Subscriber Agreement

September 16, 2016 // 9:39 a.m.

Tags: #coppa #hasbro #law #legal #mattel #new-york-attorney-general #operation-child-tracker #steam #terms-and-conditions #user-agreement #valve #viacom

Valve has made a shift to its Steam user agreement which may come as unwelcome news to many families: you now need to be 13 years or older to use the digital distribution service.

Valve's official Steam Subscriber Agreement, the document to which all Steam users must agree when setting up or continuing to use an existing account, was updated this week to add a clear warning for users aged 12 and younger. 'You may not become a subscriber if you are under the age of 13,' the newly-inserted clause states. 'Steam is not intended for children under 13 and Valve will not knowingly collect personal information from children under the age of 13.'

The shift comes following the New York Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman's announcement of $835,000 in fines levied against Viacom, Mattel, Hasbro, and JumpStart Games over technology included in their respective websites to track visitors' browsing habits - including those under the age of 13, a violation of the US Children's Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA). While COPPA has been in place since 1998, five years before Valve launched the Steam platform, its enforcement has been scattershot; the fines levied in 'Operation Child Tracker' suggest this may be changing.

For families, though, the news could be unwelcome. Prior to the change, it was typical for families to set each member up with a separate Steam account in order to prevent issues such as the overwriting of cloud-stored saved games or children going on spending sprees with parents' credit cards; in 2013 Valve even launched Steam Family Sharing to allow family members to buy a game once and share it within the family. Now, any child under the age of 13 needs to delete their account, though Valve is unlikely to enforce this in practice.

The new terms and conditions follow a change in the Steam review guidelines which prevents those who have not purchased a title directly on Steam from leaving reviews.
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