Social Media ‘Explosion’ Spurs Children’s Privacy Review

Facebook The “rapid-fire” pace of mobile technology and the “explosion” in social media has warranted a review of an existing federal rule protecting children’s online privacy to make sure it is adequate, the Federal Trade Commission told a Senate panel today.
Congress passed the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) in 1998, directed at the unique privacy and safety risks associated with children under 13 accessing the Internet. The FTC’s COPPA rule took effect in 2000.  
But that was long before Facebook and Twitter became household names and drew half a billion users.
The rule requires operators of websites and online services that target children under the age of 13 to obtain “verifiable parental consent” before they collect, use, or disclose personal information from children. They also must give parents the opportunity to review and delete their children’s personal information.
The Senate Subcommittee on Consumer Protection, Product Safety, and Insurance heard testimony today from the FTC on its review of the children’s privacy rule.
The agency will determine as part of its review whether parents are exercising their rights under the rule to examine or delete personal information collected from their children, and “what challenges operators face in authenticating parents.”
“In light of significant changes to the online environment, including the explosion of social networking and the proliferation of mobile web technologies and interactive gaming, and the possibility of interactive television, the Commission has recently initiated an accelerated review of COPPA’s effectiveness,” testified Jessica Rich, deputy director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection.
Although the FTC reviews most of its rules every 10 years, COPPA’s is being assessed only five years after its last review in 2005.
Over the past 10 years, the FTC has filed 14 law enforcement actions alleging COPPA violations and has collected more than $3.2 million in civil penalties.
The FTC is currently seeking public comment on whether website operators have the “ability to contact specific individuals using information collected from children online, such as persistent IP addresses and mobile geo-location data.” It is also examining information collected from children online “in connection with behavioral advertising,” and whether the COPPA rule’s definition of “personal information” should be expanded.
The FTC will also determinewing if additional technologies to obtain “verifiable parental consent” should be added to the COPPA rule, and whether any of the methods currently included should be removed.

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