FTC seeks to update online privacy protection laws for children

The FTC is seeking comment on whether a decade-old online privacy protection law should be updated to include new forms of digital marketing, such as wireless communications, social networks and interactive TV or gaming.

The FTC’s Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) went into effect in 2000 and requires Web site operators or online service providers aimed at children under 13 years of age to get parental permission before collecting or using personal information from children.

The rule is reviewed every five years; it went unchanged in 2005. But the FTC now believes that changes to the online environment since then, including children’s increasing use of mobile technology to access to the Internet, warrant reexamination of the law.

A few of the questions posed by the FTC: Should online operators be able to contact specific individuals using information collected from children online? Should parents have the right to review or delete personal information collected from their children? Can mobile geo-location data be collected from children?

“The law hasn’t looked at social media marketing or mobile and it hasn’t really addressed the role of cookies or IP addresses in marketing to kids,” said Jeff Chester, executive director of the Center for Digital Democracy, a privacy advocate. “This really sets the state for a new online battle for marketers and privacy advocates for what the rules should be for protecting kids online.”

Also on the privacy front, consumer groups, including CDD, are getting their first briefing Thursday from Rep. Rick Boucher (D-Va.) about a discussion draft of his long-awaited online privacy bill. Chester says privacy advocates are concerned Boucher’s bill, written with Reps. Bobby Rush (D-Ill.) and Cliff Stearns (R-Fla.), does not go far enough to protect consumers online.