Numerous privacy groups are urging the FTC to update its Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act of 1998. The primary goal of the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act, or COPPA, is to give parents control over what information is collected from their children online and how such information may be used.
Jeff Chester, Executive Director of the Center for Digital Democracy said, “The Commission should enact new rules for COPPA that draw upon its current investigations into behavioral marketing and other current digital advertising practices. It’s time for the FTC to do a better job of protecting the privacy of children online.”
The Internet today isn’t what is was in 1998. Back in the day, when dial up – the online equivalent of a horse and buggy – was the only means of getting around, the risks weren’t as great as they are now. The speed of technology has outpaced the security of information and the learning curve of users. Over time, many web operators conveniently forget the rules, chose to do things their own way, and then apologize when they are accused of doing something wrong.
The original COPPA was designed around websites that sell merchandise. Today, we have social media, Second Life, online gaming sites, and smartphones that can access the Internet anywhere, anytime.
The report states, “several start-ups…are experimenting with ways to use cell phones to bridge the digital and physical worlds and turn the tasks of everyday life, like buying coffee and running errands, into a game.” Many major companies are taking advantage of these applications for promotional purposes. A major fast food chain, for example, offers a soda and sandwich to people who “check in” three times. This company is also able to “use the data they collect from people’s cell phones to learn more about who their customers are and how they behave.”
Geolocation could pose a privacy threat. Information collected through geolocation is particularly sensitive, since it can allow a child to be physically contacted wherever he or she is, at any time. Parents need to be aware if there is misuse.
The descriptively named website PleaseRobMe.com aggregates real time location information that users have voluntarily shared on Twitter in order to bring attention to the potential problems with this type of sharing.
The risks are magnified for children, who will often fail to comprehend the significance of sharing personal information. And when a child’s location is collected automatically, neither the parent nor the child is aware that this information is being shared, nor are they given the opportunity to consent or refuse to consent to such data collection.
Kids are plugged in all day, which means it’s imperative that parents understand how these technologies are slowly infiltrating children’s’ lives in ways that we couldn’t possibly have imagined a decade ago. Hopefully, more transparency and oversight of the wild, wild web will keep new technologies in check, and your kids more secure. A great site to help educate you and your kids is www.WiredKids.org.