New Online Privacy Rules for Children

by NATASHA SINGER, The New York Times  |  published on December 21, 2012

online privacy

In a move intended to give parents greater control over data collected about their children online, federal regulators on Wednesday broadened longstanding privacy safeguards covering children’s mobile apps and Web sites. Members of the Federal Trade Commission said they updated the rules to keep pace with the growing use of mobile phones and tablets by children.

The regulations also reflect innovations like voice recognition, location technology and behavior-based online advertising, or ads tailored to an individual Internet user.

Regulators had not significantly changed the original rule, based on the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act of 1998, or Coppa. That rule required operators of Web sites directed at children under 13 to notify parents and obtain their permission before collecting or sharing personal information — like first and last names, phone numbers, home addresses or e-mail addresses — from children.

The intent of that was to give parents control over entities seeking to collect information about their children so that parents could, among other things, prevent unwanted contact by strangers.

The new rule, unveiled at a news conference in Washington, significantly expands the types of companies required to obtain parental permission before knowingly collecting personal details from children, as well as the types of information that will require parental consent to collect.

Jon D. Leibowitz, the chairman of the trade commission, described the rule revision as a major advance for children’s privacy. “Congress enacted Coppa in the desktop era and we live in an era of smartphones and mobile marketing,” Mr. Leibowitz said. “This is a landmark update of a seminal piece of legislation.”

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