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To protect children, FTC tightens privacy law

Published: Wednesday, Dec. 26 2012 5:11 p.m. MST

Last week, the Federal Trade Commission announced enhancements to the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act that are intended to shield kids’ personal information from software companies that design apps or programs directed specifically at children.

“The Obama administration on (Dec. 19) imposed sweeping changes in regulations designed to protect a young generation with easy access to the Internet,” Richard Lardner reported for the Associated Press. “Two years in the making, the amended rules to the decade-old Children's Online Privacy Protection Act go into effect in July. … Siphoning details of children's personal lives — their physical location, contact information, names of friends and more — from their Internet activities can be highly valuable to advertisers, marketers and data brokers.”

The Wall Street Journal’s Anton Troianovski and Danny Yadron wrote, “U.S. regulators broadened decade-old rules governing children's privacy online to cover new areas like smartphones, but amid pressure from the technology industry backed away from proposals that could have made companies like Facebook Inc. and Apple Inc. more responsible for violations ….

“In a departure from rule changes the government proposed in August, the FTC explicitly exempted app stores like those run by Apple and Google Inc. from responsibility for privacy violations by the games and other software that are sold there. The updated rules (go) into effect July 1.”

Reporting for Reuters, Diane Barton detailed, “Under the updated rule, IP addresses, which are unique to each computer, will be added to the list of personal information that cannot be collected from children without parental consent if the data will be used for behavioral advertising or tracking. Location, photos, videos and audio files were also added to the definition.

However, as Rob Lever noted for the American Free Press, the new regulations elicited negative reactions from organizations with competing positions regarding online privacy: “The Center for Digital Democracy, which lobbies for greater privacy protections, called the FTC move ‘a major step forward’ but warned that it may not be effective. … Meanwhile, the Center for Democracy & Technology said it was concerned the rules could be harmful to an open Internet.”

Jamshid Ghazi 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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