UPDATE 12/19/12: Today the FTC announced an important update to the rules that protect children's privacy online. The FTC's action means that kids' apps and websites will not be able to engage in "behavioral marketing" by using cookies, IP addresses, or mobile device IDs to track children's online activities without parental consent. Companies now must also obtain parental consent to collect and use a child's photos, videos, and geo-location. This is an important victory for children and families, and for the growing coaltion to protect children from exploitive digital marketing.
We have an important opportunity to help parents protect their children’s privacy on the web and on mobile platforms. The Federal Trade Commission has proposed new rules that empower parents to protect children online. (1) But the industries that profit from exploiting children online are lobbying hard to weaken the FTC’s proposal. That’s why the Commission needs to hear from you.
In 1998, Congress passed a landmark law – the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) – which requires websites to obtain permission from a parent or guardian before collecting or using personal information from children under age 13. The FTC is in charge of implementing and enforcing COPPA.
But the COPPA rules were written in another era and desperately need updating. They predate Facebook and other social networks, the smartphone explosion, and new marketing techniques enabling companies to track and target kids. Children today are extensively tracked online in ways that aren’t currently covered by COPPA. A recent study by the Wall Street Journal found 30% more cookies and tracking devices on web sites designed for kids than on ones designed for the general public. (2)
In short, the FTC’s proposed changes would help restore parents' authority as gatekeepers and provide important protections for children. Last week, a coalition of a advocates (including CCFC) submitted comments to the FTC that detailed why the proposed changes were needed. (3) Now the FTC needs to hear from you.