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Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act Now Includes Way Important Shiz Like Smartphones And Social Media

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baby and dad on internetMy oldest daughter is just now starting to discover this wonderful (and often frightening) thing call the internetz. She uses it for homework, studying, playing games and listening to music. But never unattended because, in addition to the obvious dangers she might run into (porn, Nickleback, etc.), there are tons of little details on different mediums that might put her privacy at risk. But that might be changing for the better.

On Monday of this week, new rules went into effect that aim to protect kids who use the Internet. This update made the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) more relevant to the current technology, taking social media and smartphone usage into consideration. Companies will now have additional responsibilities to children under the age of 13 as well.

Phone applications and websites that collect geo-location data and/or photos from kids (think Instagram and SnapChat) will now have to get express permission from parents or guardians just like they already have to do for home addresses or emails.

My personal favorite part is that companies will no longer be able to take advantage of a convenient loophole that they have been utilizing for years. From now on they will also be responsible, for the most part, for any information collected by third parties.

This decision has been HUGELY unpopular among industry groups, who were pretty much begging for a postponement right up until the rules changed. Because who cares about kid’s privacy when there is MONEY to be made?

A few groups are worried that the changes might stop companies from making apps for kids or that kids will simply create fake email account to circumvent the rules. According to a blog posted on the privacy law firm Hogan Lovells’ website:

“The Rule may be counterproductive, lessening the quality and scope of content directed specifically to children, which may encourage more children to visit general audience sites.”

Well, DUH, kids are gonna lie to get around these rules. Short of asking for a picture ID, there is no surefire way to know for certain if these kids got permission. But don’t throw the baby out with the bath water just yet. There is more to it.

The COPPA update also includes a provision that forbids companies from using cookies to track kids for the purposes of sending them advertisements based on their activity. It also forces them to delete any info they need to collect for tech reasons as soon as possible.

According to privacy law expert Bradley Shear this new update will effect third party developers who target kids on sites like Facebook:

“I believe the updates will require Facebook to become more vigilant about policing the apps they allow on their website. The FTC has fired a warning shot to not only Facebook but to other digital ecosystems that they must do a better job of ensuring that they protect the personal privacy of children, I think the FTC may start cracking down on digital platforms that are looking the other way regarding the age of its users. “

I don’t think parents should be trusting these rules in lieu of their own supervision. Ultimately it’s our own responsibility to watch what our kids are doing online, to keep them safe. But I welcome these new rules (they are a long time overdue) and I think anything that lessens the amount of advertising my kids see is a good thing.

Now if only there we could get rid of all these things:

worst things 2

(Photos:  JanetCaen , Cheezeburger.com)