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FTC proposes new Internet rules to protect children's privacy

Published: Friday, Sept. 28 2012 4:51 p.m. MDT

The Federal Trade Commission stands ready to implement new regulations designed to protect the online privacy of children who use the Internet.

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The Federal Trade Commission stands ready to implement new regulations designed to protect the online privacy of children who use the Internet.

In the article “U.S. Is Tightening Web Privacy Rule to Shield Young” that appeared on the front page of Friday’s New York Times, Natasha Singer reported, “If the F.T.C. carries out its proposed changes, children’s Web sites would be required to obtain parents’ permission before tracking children around the Web for advertising purposes, even with anonymous customer codes. … The moves come at a time when major corporations, app developers and data miners appear to be collecting information about the online activities of millions of young Internet users without their parents’ awareness, children’s advocates say. … The concern is that the information could be used to identify or locate individual children.”

In early August, the Wall Street Journal first broke the news that the FTC was mulling ways to improve the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act, “a 1998 law that was supposed to protect kids' online footprint.”

“Websites aimed at children already have to get parental consent before gathering information — such as name and email address — from users under 13 years old,” Anton Troianovski wrote for the Wall Street Journal. “But the original law (COPPA) hasn't adapted to advances in Web technology and marketing. Those advances have allowed so-called third parties to gather data without parents' knowing. For example, some iPhone games popular with kids, include the option to join social networks that collect personal data from users without asking for a parent's permission.”

However, an eclectic array of advocacy organizations opposes the FTC’s proposal. For example, earlier this week political website The Hill reported, “Microsoft said it is concerned the rules ‘do not provide clear, practical guidance or result in tangible benefits for children and parents.’ The company warned the regulations ‘could have unintended consequences that would impede, rather than promote, privacy and safety online.’ … Even the Center for Democracy and Technology, a consumer advocacy group that usually pushes for tougher privacy protections, warned the update would ‘impose massive burdens’ on general audience websites and could restrict free-speech rights.”

J.G. Askar is a graduate of BYU's J. Reuben Clark Law School and member of the Utah State Bar. Contact him at jaskar@desnews.com or 801-236-6051.

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