FTC considers broadening privacy measures for kids

The Federal Trade Commission said Wednesday that it's seeking input from the public about whether to broaden regulations aimed at preserving children's privacy online.

Current regulations are based on the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA), which was adopted in 2000. The commission said it's now considering revamping the regulations due to "changes to the online environment ... including children's increasing use of mobile technology to access the Internet."

COPPA prohibits companies from collecting personal information from children younger than 13 without their parents' consent. Social networks such as Facebook and MySpace have subsequently set 13 as the minimum age for registration and use of their sites, ensuring that there is no requirement to collect the parental consent data.

But hundreds of other sites that target children do collect the data. Furthermore, there is growing awareness that information supplied when kids download games or other apps to cell phones and gaming devices can be used to identify users or their whereabouts.

In a notice published in the Federal Register, the FTC specifically asks how the regulations regarding that law should apply to new platforms, including mobile, interactive TV and interactive gaming.

The commission also says it's considering whether the definition of "personal information" should be expanded to include "persistent IP addresses, mobile geolocation information or information collected in connection with online behavioral advertising."

The language is yet another sign that the FTC is concerned that even supposedly non-personally identifiable information i.e. data other than name, address, phone numbers, etc. could be used to identify specific users.

Privacy advocate Jeff Chester, executive director of the Center for Digital Democracy, says he supports a ban on the use of behavioral targeting techniques on commercial sites geared toward children. "The agency must bring its regulations on COPPA up to date, including specifically prohibiting the use of cookies and other techniques that track, profile and target kids on children's commercial sites," he said.

Parts of this article originally appeared on MediaPost.com

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