FTC may revamp online child privacy rules

children online privacy FTC Shutterstock

The Federal Trade Commission is considering updating the rules that govern the types of information websites may collect from users under the age of 13. The potential move comes as new technology emerges that isn’t explicitly regulated by the current regulations.

Under consideration is an update to the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act, also known as Coppa, which originally went into effect all the way back in 2000 — well before advents like social media and smartphone technology existed.

Specifically, the FTC is looking to expand the provision governing “personal information” of those 13-years-old and under. Currently, websites must obtain permission from parents of those children. The proposed amendments aim to include things like location information. Cookies, which websites automatically plant on  computers as a way to gear which advertisements to display, will also become more tightly regulated, if the amendments are approved, as will regulations concerning facial recognition technology.

Websites that collect the personal information of children would be required to prove they can properly protect the information.  They must also only keep the data as long as is “reasonably necessary,” then delete the data.

The need for such an update comes with “an explosion in children’s use of mobile devices, the proliferation of online social networking and interactive gaming,” according to the FTC. According to FTC Chairman Jon Leibowitz the new uber-connected generation is “tech-savvy, but judgement-poor.”

While the rules update can be enacted without the approval of Congress, enforcing the regulations is a far more difficult task. According to Consumer Reports, 7.5 million children under the age of 13 use Facebook, despite the social network’s explicit rules against it. The lack of control over this policy recently came under scrutiny in the UK after a father from Northern Ireland filed a lawsuit against Facebook because his 12-year-old daughter was able to post “sexually explicit” photos, as well as identifying personal information, to her profile.

“We believe it is time to focus on how to keep kids safe online and on Facebook, rather than on how to keep them off,” a Facebook official told The New York Times. He made the statement anonymously, as the company does not comment on such matters due to their sensitive nature.

[Image via YanLev/Shutterstock]

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