September 15th, 2011

Regulators propose tougher online privacy protections for kids

Los Angeles Times

Federal regulators on Thursday proposed tougher privacy protections for preteens surfing the Internet as the government seeks to update safeguards put in place before the explosion of smartphones and social networking.

The new rules from the Federal Trade Commission would apply to children under 13 and would tighten requirements covering the collection and storage of of personal information by websites and how they solicit and obtain parental approval.

“In this era of rapid technological change, kids are often tech-savvy but judgment-poor,” said FTC Chairman Jon Leibowitz.

The commission wants to help “parents protect their children online, without unnecessarily burdening online businesses,’’ he said.

The FTC is proposing changes to rules required by the landmark Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act, which was enacted in 1998. The agency last updated the rules in 2005, but started working on revisions last year “in light of rapidly evolving technology and changes in the way children use and access the Internet,” it said.

For example, the new rules clarify that online services include mobile apps “that allow children to play network-connected games, engage in social networking activities, purchase goods or services online,
receive behaviorally targeted advertisements, or interact with other content or services.”

The existing rules require website operators and online service providers to get the consent of parents before collecting personal information from children. Among the major changes would be a broader definition of personal information to include geolocation data often provided by smartphones, and online tracking mechanisms used to deliver behavioral advertising.

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