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FTC Suggests Stronger Rules for Children’s Privacy Online

8 Aug, 2012 By: Doug McPherson

WASHINGTON – The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) wants websites and third-party data brokers to get permission from parents before they collect children’s data.

The FTC says the change is about protecting children’s privacy online, particularly on mobile devices. Further, the commission asserts the changes are needed because of the widespread use of mobile devices and to hold website owners responsible for any infractions committed by third parties, such as data brokers.

In its proposed rule, the commission states: “The commission did not foresee how easy … it would become for child-directed sites and services to integrate social networking and other personal information collection features into the content offered to their users, without maintaining ownership, control or access to the personal data. Given these changes in technology, the commission now believes that an operator of a child-directed site or service that chooses to integrate into a site or service other services that collect personal information from its visitors should be considered a covered operator under the rule.”

The proposal also states that family websites, sites aimed at children and adults, would be allowed to screen users to determine their ages and only provide COPPA protection to those under age 13 (the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act mandates that website and online service operators obtain verifiable consent from parents before collecting, using or disclosing personal information of children under 13). Currently, all visitors to the websites must be treated as if they are under age 13.

The FTC’s proposal updates the definition of “personal information” to require parents to give permission before identifiers like IP addresses could be collected while children surf the Internet.

Data-collecting tracking cookies placed on a computer were added to the definition of “personal information” last September since they can be used to identify a computer’s user. The proposal is open for comment until September 10. The commission will then offer a final rule, possibly before 2013.

About the Author: Doug McPherson

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