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Survey: parents want stronger laws protecting online kids


As the FTC is working to update regulations to protect children online, two non-profit advocacy groups have released survey findings that show overwhelming support for many proposed changes – some of which have been opposed by Viacom and Disney along with companies like Facebook, Google and Twitter.

The Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) was passed in 1998 and therefore doesn’t address some of the tools currently in use by all kinds of web and mobile companies.

Some of the points agreed upon by more than 90 percent of respondents include: parental permission must be granted before tracking cookies, plugins or the like are put on a computer being used by a child; advertisers should not be allowed to collect locataion information from a child’s mobile phone; and it should be forbidden to ask children for information about their friends.

Media and other companies are concerned that the anti-tracking provisions will make it difficult, if not impossible, to provide online entertainment and research or educational tools aimed at children. Both sides point to the fact that sites for children use nearly 30 percent more tracking tools than other sites, but those against the provision contend they are required to provide an age-appropriate experience.

Additionally, a clear majority of adults (80 percent) disapproved of allowing advertisers to collect and use information about a child’s online activities, no matter how anonymized it was. Even more (90 percent) were in favor of keeping COPPA’s existing requirement that sites which collect personal information from children must get parental permission before doing so.

Both organizations issued statements:

“It is clear from these findings that the public supports strong action by the FTC to address the disturbing and widespread practices that threaten the privacy and safety of our nation’s children,” said Kathryn C. Montgomery, Ph.D, professor of communication at American University and one of the leaders of the campaign to pass COPPA during the 1990s. “Children should be able to reap the benefits of this new participatory media culture without being subjected to techniques that take advantage of their developmental vulnerabilities. We must ensure that the COPPA rules are updated effectively so that the generation of young people growing up online today will be treated fairly in the growing digital marketplace.”

“The results of this poll should be a wake-up call to the industry that parents understand what’s at stake for their kids in a digital world, and want the power to protect their children to remain in their hands,” said James P. Steyer, CEO and founder, Common Sense Media. “The industry argues that updates to COPPA will stifle innovation and cost jobs, when in fact, they should respect the role of parents and use it build consumer trust. The FTC’s recommended updates to COPPA represent the most important regulation of the past 10 years when it comes to protecting our kids’ privacy. They will help ensure that parents have better information and tools, and that parents — not third-party ad networks and data brokers — get to decide when their children’s personal information can — and can’t — be collected, shared, and sold.”

Related links:

Download a copy of the report here [PDF].

Center for Digital Democracy – http://www.democraticmedia.org

Common Sense Media – http://www.commonsense.org

Multichannel News – Survey: Adults Want to Protect Kids From Online Ad Tracking

AdWeek – Study: Parents Concerned About Digital Marketing Practices Targeting Kids

The Hill – Survey: Parents support stiffer rules on child online privacy

Los Angeles Times – Parents want more online protections for kids, privacy groups say

Photo by Flickr user Arlington County, used under Creative Commons license