Earlier this month, news broke that the Federal Trade Commission had proposed changes to the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act, or COPPA. This act applies to online safety and protection for kids, currently ruling that companies and websites have to obtain parental consent before collecting any personal information from or about children under 13 years of age. However, the FTC is proposing revisions that would require the definition of “personal information” to include additional data such as a child’s location, as well as other changes and specifications. It’s important to point out that COPPA was initially enacted in 2000, long before smartphones and social media were so prevalent in children’s lives.
The proposed modifications cover five different areas, including definitions, such as what exactly “personal information” and “collection” entail, parental notice to streamline and clarify the notice that companies and websites must give before collecting a child’s information, parental consent mechanisms that require new methods to obtain parental approval such as electronic scans of signed consent forms or checking government-issued IDs against a database, confidentiality and security requirements that would require operators to only obtain and use information for as long as is reasonably necessary, and finally, strengthening safe harbor programs by requiring annual audits on operators obtaining personal information and reporting results to the FTC periodically.
So what does this mean for your kids? The FTC is expected to release its final recommendations for privacy regulations over the next few months and if enforced, kids should be better protected online. COPPA has received a lot of attention in the past because it is the reason kids under 13 years of age are not technically allowed on Facebook. While this rule has been generally easy to get past, new changes could allow more enforcement and less underage kids on Facebook and other social networks. As FTC Chairman Jon Leibowitz cited as a reason for the proposed changes, “In this era of rapid technological change, kids are often tech savvy but judgment poor. We want to ensure that the COPPA Rule is effective in helping parents protect their children online, without unnecessarily burdening online businesses.”
What kinds of privacy measures do you put in place yourself in order to better protect your kids online?