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FTC Proposes Changes to Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act

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Accept/delete (tracking) cookies by stallio on Flickr
Accept/delete (tracking) cookies by stallio on Flickr

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) recently proposed changes to the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) that would further restrict the kinds of personal information websites could collect from users under 13 years old; the proposed amendments are intended to address issues that have come up in the online world since the rules were first passed in 2000, last reviewed in 2005.

One of the FTC’s proposed amendments would expand the definition of “personal information” to include geolocation, tracking cookies, and other persistent identifiers, common with handheld devices, which can be used to trace a user across various websites and applications.

Companies often use the information gathered through such cookies for targeted marketing.

The FTC was spurred into action on this issue because of what it calls “the rapid-fire pace of technological change since the Commission’s 2005 review, including an explosion in children’s use of mobile devices, the proliferation of online social networking and interactive gaming.” That is, children are increasingly using not only the family computer but also smartphones and other handheld devices that may open them up to the collection of more and more personal information.

Another of the amendments would go the heart of parental consent with proposals for alternate methods such as an ID check against a database, video-conferencing, and scanned electronic consent forms.

For a fuller description of all the proposed amendments, be sure to download the FTC’s proposed amendments (PDF).

The proposed amendments come on the heels of the introduction of bipartisan H.R. 1895, the “Do Not Track Kids Act of 2011,” sponsored by Rep. Joe Barton (R., Tex.) and Rep. Edward Markey (D., Mass.) as well as California’s pending “Do Not Track” Bill. The Washington Times notes that six bills regarding Internet privacy have been introduced this session in Congress, so it’s certainly a hot topic as far as the government is concerned.

What about with average folks? What do you think of all the “do not track” proposals? Let us know in the comments, and if you’d like to submit a written comment on the FTC’s proposed amendments, you have until November 28 to do so.

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September 19th, 2011 at 3:10 pm

Posted in Internet Law,Privacy

Tagged with , ,