Stronger online privacy protection for children sought

 A who’s who of advocacy groups today urged the Federal Trade Commission to beef up privacy protection for children who are spending more time on the Internet.

In this filing, 17 organizations call on the FTC to update and clarify its children’s online privacy rules to ensure the continued effectiveness of the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act in the contemporary digital marketplace.

“The Commission should enact new rules for COPPA that draw upon its current investigations into behavioral marketing and other current digital advertising practices,” said Jeff Chester, Executive Director of the Center for Digital Democracy. “It’s time for the FTC to do a better job of protecting the privacy of children online.”

Chester says predators are developing new techniques for “tracking and targeting children through mobile phones, video games, and virtual worlds.”

Other organizations calling for more protection include the American Academy of Pediatrics, Consumer Federation of America, Consumers Union, the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse, and the World Privacy Forum. The groups want to see the FTC:

  • Develop a separate set of privacy protections for children 13 and older.
  • Extend COPPA’s privacy protections to mobile phones, online gaming consoles, interactive television, and other new digital platforms that are increasingly used by marketers to track and target children.
  • Update its definition of “personal information” to reflect contemporary marketing practices in which persistent cookies, IP addresses, geo-location data, and even seemingly anonymous combinations of data such as age, zip code, and gender can be used to identify and target individuals.
  • Close the loopholes on when and how a website can contact children multiple times without obtaining parental consent, and to investigate whether some marketers are circumventing COPPA’s intent by using this exception to the rules to engage in ongoing data collection and personalized marketing.
  • Require major websites, ad networks, social networks and other online service operators to periodically inform the FTC about their data collection practices.

COPPA has been federal law since 1998. The FTC’s rules for implementing the law went into effect in 2000.

“With the changes called for in these comments, COPPA will continue to ensure that children reap the benefits of the digital age without compromising their privacy, safety, and wellbeing,”says Kathryn C. Montgomery a professor at American University, who led the campaign to enact the legislation during the 90s.

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