OVERNIGHT TECH: Industry groups pan FTC's online privacy rules

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Daniel Castro, a senior analyst for the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation, said the regulations are "just another example of how federal child privacy laws harm children more than help them."

He criticized the rules for not doing anything to prevent children from lying about their age on sites like Facebook and Skype.

Steve DelBianco, executive director of the business group NetChoice, said the changes "will deter innovation on websites not directed to children, and the changes will discourage creation of new educational tools for children.”

Association for Competitive Technology Executive Director Morgan Reed criticized FTC Chairman Jon Leibowitz for expressing confidence that companies will find solutions to comply with the rules.

"It is akin to jumping off a cliff with the plan to build the parachute on the way down. While that may work for big companies, small companies lack the silk and line to build that parachute before they hit the ground,“ Reed said.

The FTC's rules, announced on Tuesday, update the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA), a 1998 law the restricts the ability of websites to knowingly collect information from children younger than 13.

The FTC's update clarifies that the restrictions cover not only websites, but also games, apps, ad networks and other online plug-ins.

The regulations also expand the definition of personal information to cover photos, videos and geolocation data.

The rules restrict the ability of websites to install tracking files, known as cookies, on children's computers.

At a press conference, Leibowitz noted that the regulations do not affect advertisements unless they use cookies to track users.

"Business models that depend on advertising can continue to thrive," he said.

Privacy groups and lawmakers praised the new rules.

Sen. Jay Rockefeller called them "common sense" and said they were long overdue.

Sen. Mark Pryor (D-Ark.) and Reps. Edward Markey (D-Mass.) and Joe Barton (R-Texas) also attended the press conference on Capitol Hill to applaud the new rules.

Ellen Bloom, the director of federal policy at Consumers Union, said the rules will "give parents more say about whether a company can collect personal information about their children in this changing digital world. The FTC deserves credit for taking this action." 

PIPA author stays on Judiciary: Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) announced on Wednesday that he has decided to remain chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee. Leahy was next in line to assume the chairman position on the Senate Appropriations Committee after Sen. Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii) passed away this week. 

"Chairing the Judiciary Committee & maintaining my seniority on the Appropr. Committee will allow me to protect both the Constitution and [Vermont]," Leahy tweeted.

Leahy has advocated for stronger laws against online piracy and was the author of the Protect IP Act (PIPA), which sparked a wave of online protests earlier this year from people who feared it would take down legitimate websites. The Vermont Democrat was forced to shelve the bill after several lawmakers reversed their support for it. But before he did so, Leahy took to the Senate floor in January to express his disappointment with the opposition to the bill and vowed to keep up his fight against online piracy and counterfeiting.

Senate Commerce Committee delays vote on FTC, FTC picks again: The Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee has delayed a vote on President Obama's nominees to the Federal Trade Commission and the Federal Communications Commission until further notice. The vote was delayed because of scheduling issues due to Sen. Daniel Inouye's (D-Hawaii) death, a Commerce aide said.

Obama nominated Mignon Clyburn for a second term at the FCC and Joshua Wright for a first term at the FTC.

National Geographic, Anonymous said to boycott Instagram: After photo-sharing app Instagram announced changes to its new privacy policy and terms of use agreement, National Geographic has decided to suspend new posts on its account, Forbes reports. The hacker group Anonymous has encouraged its Twitter users to delete their Instagram accounts, the report says.

House Intelligence Committee to meet on Huawei-ZTE report:
The House Intelligence Committee will hold a business meeting on Thursday morning where members will vote on the final report of its investigation into whether Huawei and ZTE pose a national security threat to the U.S. When the committee released the unclassified section of the report in October, it recommended that Huawei and ZTE should be blocked from doing business in the U.S.

Sen. Rockefeller introduces bill to study effect of video game violence on children: Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) introduced a bill late Tuesday that would require the National Academy of Sciences to study the impact of violent video games and other content on children.

Rockefeller, chairman of the Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, said the bill would lay the groundwork for Congress to consider new regulations of violent entertainment content.

Nickelodeon plans to resubmit "SpongeBob" game app to App Store: Cable channel Nickelodeon on Wednesday said it plans to resubmit its "SpongeBob Diner Dash" mobile game app to Apple's App Store after concluding that the app did not collect kids' names, email addresses and other personal information.

The popular kids-focused channel temporarily pulled the "SpongeBob" app from the App Store on Monday after a privacy watchdog group, the Center for Digital Democracy (CDD), charged that it violated children's online privacy laws in a complaint to the Federal Trade Commission. After investigating the claims, the Viacom-owned channel said it found that the app did not violate the Children's Online Privacy and Protection Act (COPPA).

Kramer: U.S. 'disappointed' Internet was swept into treaty talks:
U.S. Ambassador Terry Kramer on Wednesday said he was disappointed that a United Nations agency refused to sideline treaty proposals backed by Russia and China that threatened Internet freedom.

"I can say, candidly, I was disappointed these issues weren't taken off the table," Kramer said in his first public appearance since the U.N. telecommunications treaty conference ended last week. 

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