August 2nd, 2012

Tracking Kids Online: Uncle Sam Wants to Make It Harder

By Susan Berfield
Bloomberg Businessweek

In 1998, a nifty little search engine business called Google (GOOG) was founded, the iMac (AAPL) was unveiled, and the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act was created. Now, 14 years and a technological lifetime later, the Federal Trade Commission is updating those rules (PDF). While privacy advocates and all manner of organizations concerned about marketing to kids have been pushing for further restrictions, companies such as Walt Disney (DIS) and Facebook (FB) are already angling for exemptions.

Coppa, as the existing regulation is called, requires websites aimed at kids to get parental consent before gathering information about those users who are under 13. But data brokers and the companies they work for have found a way around that. Software installed on kids’ websites can collect personal information without parents’ approval. The companies operating the sites can argue that they aren’t responsible for what the brokers are doing. Now the FTC wants to hold both the brokers and the sites responsible for getting permission from parents to track their kids online.

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