FTC tightens rules protecting children's online privacy

Wed Dec 19, 2012 5:16pm EST
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By Diane Bartz

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The government announced tighter rules on Wednesday to protect children's online privacy by restricting the collection of data, like the child's location, unless parents consent.

The actions by the Federal Trade Commission mark an update to rules that were based on the 1998 Children's Online Privacy Protection Act, developed when most computers were big beige boxes sitting under office desks instead of smartphones in backpacks, and online social media was unheard of.

"The Commission takes seriously its mandate to protect children's online privacy in this ever-changing technological landscape," FTC Chairman Jon Leibowitz said in a statement.

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.

Leibowitz said the commission struck "the right balance between protecting innovation that will provide rich and engaging content for children, and ensuring that parents are informed and involved in their children's online activities."

But Senator John Rockefeller, a West Virginia Democrat and chair of the Senate Commerce, Science and Technology Committee, which oversees the FTC, said he had wanted legislation that went further.

"There are groups that will complain about it (COPPA being too weak), and so will I, but we can't do anything more about it right now," he said. "Children's privacy as far as I am concerned is an absolutely top line issue."   Continued...