US wants kids' online privacy rule updated

2011-09-16 17:02

Washington - A proposed update of the US online privacy rule for children would revise definitions of personal information and beef up parental consent mechanisms to reflect technological changes.

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) plan would modify its children's online privacy protection rule that gives parents a say over what information websites and other online providers can collect about children under the age of 13.

"In this era of rapid technological change, kids are often tech savvy but judgment poor," FTC chairperson Jon Leibowitz said in a statement on Thursday.

The FTC plan makes clear that privacy protections apply when a child is on a cell phone, playing interactive games online or participating in a virtual world. It further clarifies that the law requires parental consent before behaviorally profiling a child.

The Children's Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) of 1998 requires websites and online service operators to obtain verifiable consent from parents before collecting, using or disclosing personal information of children.

New consent mechanisms, such as video-conferencing and electronic scans of signed consent forms, are added under the FTC's proposal.

The commission wants to eliminate a form of parental consent known as "e-mail plus", that allows operators to obtain consent through an e-mail to the parent, coupled with another step.

"We want to ensure that the COPPA Rule is effective in helping parents protect their children online, without unnecessarily burdening online businesses," Leibowitz said.

The FTC implemented the privacy law in 2000 with its rule that has not been updated since, despite a 2005 review.

"One of the biggest changes is the rapid growth of mobile and how quickly it has penetrated into the children's marketplace," American University communications professor Kathryn Montgomery said of the need to update the rule.

Montgomery led the campaign to have COPPA enacted in 1998. She told a conference call with reporters that greater sophistication in behavioral targeting and tracking in recent years also warranted updates to the rule.

The FTC's proposal updates the definition of "personal information" to require parental permission before identifiers like IP addresses and tracking cookies could be collected while children surf the internet.

Location information, often collected by mobile devices and applications, would also be added to the list of covered personal information.

Lawmakers have raised concerns that tech companies may not be doing enough to safeguard their customers' privacy in favor of selling location data to potential advertisers.

Representatives Edward Markey and Joe Barton praised the FTC's proposed revisions, which include many of the same safeguards the lawmakers introduced in May with their bipartisan Do Not Track Kids Act.

The online industry expressed a commitment to protecting children but had concerns about some of the revisions, such as eliminating the "sliding scale" approach that determines the required method of consent based on how a website intends to use a child's personal information.

"It would be a disservice to our children - and the US economy - if our regulations unnecessarily inhibited growth in new areas such as mobile technology," said Linda Woolley, executive vice president of Washington operations for the Direct Marketing Association.

The FTC is seeking comment on the proposal until November 28.

Read more on:    us  |  internet  |  online privacy

Read News24’s Comments Policy publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
1 comment
Add your comment
Comment 0 characters remaining

Inside News24


'Zuma's legacy will be judged by Nkandla'

The legacy of President Jacob Zuma is contingent on how he deals with the issue of upgrades to his Nkandla homestead, says Cape Town Archbishop Thabo Makgoba.


Latest elections multimedia

Why Jack Parow wants you to vote on 7 May
The ad the SABC doesn't want to air
Elections 2014 in one cartoon
This year's election posters
  • Thursday Sir Lowry's Pass - 05:35 AM
    Road name: Old Sir Lowrys Pass Road
    TRAFFIC LIGHTS not working at Bezweni Road
  • Thursday Cape Town - 05:35 AM
    Road name: Buitengracht Street
    TRAFFIC LIGHTS not working at Waterkant Street
More traffic reports...

Jobs in Cape Town [change area]

Property [change area]

Travel - Look, Book, Go!

Escape winter, head to Mauritius

Escape winter by spending 7 nights in Mauritius' tropical bliss from R13 215 per person sharing. Includes return flights, airport transfers and accommodation. Book now! - shop online today

Get many eggs in one basket!

Gaming bundles: 2 Super Hits games for R99, 3 Disney games for R99 and more + exclusive accessory bundles only available on While stocks last. Shop now!

25% off bestselling books!

The Real Meal Revolution by Tim Noakes, Jeffrey Archer’s Be Careful What You Wish for, Man’s Search for Meaning by Victor E. Frank and many more titles. Shop now!

Up to 25% off electronics

Buy top electronics and save up to 25%. Such as’s 1# selling product the gobii eReader, Patriot X Porter flash drive, Asus Nexus 7” 3G tablet, Samsung Galaxy SIII, Lenovo G580 Notebook and many more. Shop now!

DStv HD PVR Decoder now R949

The DStv HD PVR Decoder has further revolutionised the television experience with lifelike viewing, sharper images, more vibrant colours and precision picture quality. Now R949, save R550. Offer valid while stocks last. Shop now!

Up to 30% off appliances & homeware

Save up to 30% on appliances and homeware this Easter! Offer valid while stocks last. Shop now.

OLX Free Classifieds [change area]

Samsung Galaxy s4

Mobile, Cell Phones in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 24

Best bargain in big bay

Real Estate, Houses - Apartments for Sale in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

VW Golf 6, 1.6 Trendline (Excellent condition)

Vehicles, Cars in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

Nokia Lumia 800

The stunningly social Nokia Lumia 800 features head-turning design, ...

From R2395.00

I'm shopping for:


Self-indulgence may be strong today. You may want to enjoy yourself to the fullest and share it with those that make you more

There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.