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BizReport : Law & Regulation : August 03, 2012

FTC wants COPPA rules updated in line with 21st century technology

New rules to better protect children against the collection of their personal data online are being proposed by the Federal Trade Commission including changes to the definition of personally identifiable information.

by Helen Leggatt

Since 1998, the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) has required that parental permission is sought before the collection of data for kids under the age of 13.

Times have changed and, in the past 14 years, Facebook, Twitter, and mobile have come on the scene. According to the FTC, marketers targeting users on such websites or on mobile could potentially avoid parental consent in data collection.

"There are plenty of plug-ins or advertising networks that place ads on many, many websites that may be affected by this," said Mary Engle, the FTC's associate director of ad practices.

To bring COPPA in line with 21st century marketing technology, the FTC has released recommendations for updating the Act.

"The Commission remains deeply committed to helping to create a safer, more secure online experience for children and takes seriously the challenge to ensure that COPPA continues to meet its originally stated goals, even as online technologies, and children's uses of such technologies, evolve," says the FTC in its proposed rule.

Also to be reviewed is the definition of personally identifiable information to include the likes of IP addresses and cookies.

"A persistent identifier will be considered personal information where it can be used to recognize a user over time, or across different sites or services, where it is used for purposes other than support for internal operations," said the FTC in a recent statement.

Earlier this year the FTC released a report in which it suggested that current mobile app privacy disclosures were disappointing.

"The mobile app marketplace is growing at a tremendous speed, and many consumer protections, including privacy and privacy disclosures, have not kept pace with this development. Parents need easy access to basic information so they can make informed decisions about the apps they allow their children to use," they said.

Tags: age restriction, child protection, COPPA, mobile apps, online privacy, parental consent, privacy disclosure, social networks

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