Suggestion - Multi-Use/School Accounts

I saw the reply to this thread about multi-use situations in schools and felt like I should say something.

I understand that the TOS says that you cannot share your account, but I think there needs to be a solution for school settings and other situations where there are kids involved. There are a particular set of problems that arise due to GF’s cloud-based services:

  1. GF legally cannot register kids under the age of 13 without explicit parental permission. It says in the TOS that kids need their parents’ permission, but I do not remember being asked for my age and I suspect that GF has no process in place for garnering parental permission.
  2. It may be against a school’s acceptable use policy (AUP) to allow kids to use their school email addresses to register for a web service such as GF.
  3. The forum is not necessarily an appropriate place for kids (especially middle school and younger). In addition to occasional adult-focused discussions, the presence of private messaging isn’t kid-safety-friendly.

I think it behooves GF to create a special group user account option for schools, libraries, etc., that either have no access to the forum/shop or can have permissions set on a case-by-case basis. Or adjust the TOS to allow for educators to create group accounts for people to use without providing individuals with a password. Right now, it’s a questionable use case for high schools and an inappropriate one for middle schools.

Two cents…


Good points. Hadn’t considered the possible misuse of private messaging, it’s a scary thought.


Perhaps easiest would be to let people turn on/off various features in the profiles of the accounts they create under their main account. Right now it seems to be limited to creation and deletion.


That’s a good idea, but I’m not sure Discourse allows you to do that kind of thing as a user…I think you need moderator status. (And that looks like a whole 'nother can of worms…I vote we let @dan continue to handle it.)

Sorry Dan…just teasing. Kind of. :smile:


Is that handled under Discourse? I guess so, but I would be quicker to have an account that could talk to the GF and possibly the store, but not have a presence on the forums. (Especially since most of the forum stuff is available to the public anyway.)

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Well, I know they had set it up so that guests could have an account in case they needed to ask for help. But I’m not sure that those kinds of accounts can be limited to non-Private messaging as a group. It might require manual intervention on a case-by-case basis.

I don’t know, I’m not familiar with how Discourse has it’s permissions set up…one of the moderators would know.

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I think the reality is that kids don’t really need individual accounts on the GF. They typically will only need access during class time, so a class-wide account will do the trick in a lot of use cases, especially with younger kids. That’s why I think there needs to be some sort of school-specific setup option that groups kids into one account. If we could get folders in the GFUI (please, please, please), teachers could assign each kid a folder in a class account. The teacher logs in at the beginning of class and the kids never even deal with a password. Seems like a better idea than having teachers setting up 100 (or whatever number) accounts each year.


I run the maker space at my high school and so far the following has worked very well for the classes I teach. We have one computer set up by the two glowforges that is for that purpose only. There is a shared google drive folder that students can access. They do all of their design work on their laptops and save the files to the shared google drive folder. They then go to the glowforge computer which is already signed in and upload their design and cut it. The students don’t need an account or know the password and unless they are being completely unsupervised, dont have a chance to access anything outside the GFUI. YMMV


That makes sense to me (and is precisely what I have been recommending) but the official reply to the other post cited the TOS, which says that you can’t share your account with someone else. That’s why I made this comment… GF either needs to rethink that policy or create a better option for schools.


Yeah I just reread the TOS and see what you mean.

But if it’s the school’s account, then you’re not violating the TOS. Schools aren’t people or individuals. Of course 2 schools using the same account would be a violation but multiple human users within the context of a school environment would not based on the terms and how they would be interpreted in context with the original account owner’s entity type.

I think even school accounts are tied to a person.

The support reply says, " Each student would need their own account. This allows each student to keep their designs separate from one another and complies with our Terms of Service . " That’s where my interpretation came from.


The first statement is Glowforge complying with COPPA. ( Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act) The act applies to the online collection of personal information by persons or entities in the U.S. on kids under 13 years of age. It details what a website operator must include in a privacy policy, when and how to seek verifiable consent from a [parent]or [guardian], and what responsibilities an operator has to protect children’s privacy and safety online including restrictions on the marketing of those under 13.

It’s such a legal minefield that it’s the main reason Facebook and other social networks ban anyone under 13 and the reason YouTube made the YouTube Kids app.

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Yes, I was referring to COPPA. There may be a nod to it in the TOS, but that’s not enough for compliance. Social Media sites ban kids under the age of 13 because it’s extremely difficult to properly gather parental consent. If you don’t ask the age of people registering (which they don’t), you can’t filter out kids under the age of 13. And if you say they CAN register with parental consent, you need a way to capture it. None is in place.

People keep arguing the individual points of my statement, but I’m really just saying that GF should take some time to look at how schools, afterschool programs, libraries, etc., will be using their machines, and create an appropriate (practical, safe, legal) account setup for them to use. They chose to go with a cloud-based service and this is one of the outcomes that needs to be addressed.


agree - needs to be addressed. School gets a permission slip, teacher validates the COPPA statement, etc… but GF needs to allow users without ‘forums/community’ permissions too, I think.


Unfortunately, COPPA doesn’t work that way. The burden falls on GF, not on the school, to make sure the kids have permission. I mean, yeah, the school should do the same on their end for their purposes, but for COPPA, GF needs to have proof.

Of course nothing is in place. There is a large laundry list of things that have been promised that haven’t happened yet. Do I think they will eventually get to it? I do. I think they are still overwhelmed.

Facebook said in 2014 that it would cost them about $2 billion/year to comply with COPPA. Otherwise, Facebook would love to hook kids under 13 on the platform, but since they can not serve kids under 13 ads, they would be losing money on the endeavor.

Disney ran afoul COPPA with their Club Penguin for kids and once they settled with the Feds for non-compliance, they shut it down, as it was going to be too expensive to run.

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So… while I don’t agree that Club Penguin’s shut down had much to do with COPPA, I also don’t think it’s the point.

I’m not attacking GF. I’m pointing out a missing component. And I don’t think it’s something that has been promised. I suspect it’s an oversight as is typically the case in situations like this. When people start businesses, they aren’t necessarily thinking of COPPA and AUP’s and the logistics of managing 20-something kid accounts per class. They likely aren’t even thinking about the safety of minors on their site. This is my area of expertise and so it’s something that I do think about when arriving on a new site. Having now seen several questions from educators about how best to handle accounts for kids, I felt like I should step in and suggest that GF think about supporting these groups. The resolution to this isn’t necessarily about COPPA. If you don’t collect kids’ info, you don’t have an issue. So, for example, if students were allowed in the TOS to use an umbrella classroom or school account (ideally without forum access), you would not be collecting the info.

But the bottom line is that my suggestions are for GF, based on my experience, and not really meant for a debate. I’m sure there are other folks on here (perhaps you included) who have experience with educational tech/online safety who might have other ideas, but I’m not telling GF how to solve the problem, so much as saying there is one and giving some ideas to get the ball rolling.

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If it was in the GF privacy policy/terms of service page, and GF expects the machines to be used in schools, then it has to be coming, just no one knows when.

Club Penguin was in trouble with the Feds because Disney was sharing user data with the app developers who were selling the data to advertisers and research firms. First, Disney should not have been collecting the data, second the developers should have not been receiving the data and third the developers should not have been selling the data. In all fairness, this was going on before Disney purchased the platform.

fact is you KNOW that there are kids under 13 on facebook, and just about any site with some COPPA interface. They just say they ARE over 13. But that’s neither here nor there, is it. Good topic ChristyM - let’s hope that GF and their lawyers figure this out for all the schools who want to teach with a forge…