Could lack of iPad accounts put kids, data at risk?

If Apple iPads don't allow users to set up multiple accounts, it could be challenging for families to protect data and keep kids from inappropriate sites.

Larry Magid
Larry Magid is a technology journalist and an Internet safety advocate. He's been writing and speaking about Internet safety since he wrote Internet safety guide "Child Safety on the Information Highway" in 1994. He is co-director of ConnectSafely.org, founder of SafeKids.com and SafeTeens.com, and a board member of the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children. Larry's technology analysis and commentary can be heard on CBS News and CBS affiliates, and read on CBSNews.com. He also writes a personal-tech column for the San Jose Mercury News. You can e-mail Larry.
Larry Magid
2 min read

Could lack of user accounts endanger kids or data? Apple

Writing for TheStreet.com, Anton Wahlman observed that the iPad's "user log-in flaw" could pose a problem for families and others who are sharing the device. The iPad, according to Walhman, won't allow owners to set up multiple user accounts as is the case with PCs and Macs.

If true (no one has yet reviewed the iPad), it could pose a problem for parents wishing to keep their kids away from certain material and data.

Apple didn't immediately return requests by phone and e-mail for a comment.

Windows, Macs, and most other PCs have the ability to create separate accounts for each user, which is typically how filtering and monitoring programs are able to control or track kids' use without affecting their parents. Most parental control programs allow you to create separate settings for each user.

Also, computer operating systems typically isolate user data so that a user only has access to his or her own files. The files of other users are only accessible when they're logged on using their own password.

The iPhone and iPod Touch don't allow for multiple accounts, but they are mostly personal devices. Except for very well-heeled parents who buy an iPad for each family member, I would imagine that many families that purchase one are likely to keep it a coffee table or kitchen counter for quick Web surfing or news reading.

There are also some possible security issues. For one thing, many people will want to use the iPad for e-mail using their contact lists, which means sharing the information with anyone who has physical access to the device. And there is also the issue of kids messing with their parents' mission-critical software and data. I never let my kids access my account on my PC, not because I had anything to hide from them, but because I didn't want them accidentally deleting or writing over any of my files.

Because of its size, price and versatility, the iPad is really a tablet computer and if is going to be used like a computer, it needs to have the same level of security and account control that we've come to expect from personal computers. Although criticized by some, Apple's closed architecture (requiring that apps be vetted before being made available to users) should help iPad users avoid some of the security flaws of PCs, but if it doesn't offer individual accounts, it could cause a major security nightmare for people who share the device.

Like a lot of other limitations, this might be solved via a third-party app or by Apple itself and, until we see the device we won't know for sure if this is going to be a problem.