Children’s Privacy Advocates Praise FTC’s New Safeguards Protecting Children’s Online

Leaders of the Effort to Pass COPPA in 1998 Say Parents Should Now Have Greater Control of their Children’s Information Online
 
 Digital Media Companies Must Implement New Policies to Protect Children’s Privacy Online

 

Washington, DC: The team of privacy advocates and lawyers responsible for passage of the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) in the late 1990s expressed strong support for the Federal Trade Commission’s long-awaited release of its updated children’s privacy rules, announced today, while urging regulators to keep a watchful eye on continuing developments in the mobile app and social media industries.

 

“We are at a critical moment in the growth of the children’s digital marketplace,” said Kathryn Montgomery, Professor of Communication at American University, “as social networks, mobile phones and gaming platforms become an increasingly powerful presence in the lives of young people. The new rules should help ensure that companies targeting children throughout the rapidly expanding digital media landscape will be required to engage in fair marketing and data collection practices. We applaud the FTC for its rigorous and comprehensive review of the COPPA rules and for bringing them up to date with industry changes. However, the Commission will need to engage in ongoing monitoring efforts, as well as strong enforcement actions, if the implementation of these rules is to be effective in the long run. The FTC’s recent report on the children’s app market indicates that, even in the midst of an intense public debate over privacy policy, too many companies in this industry have operated with little regard for their legal obligations to children.”

 

“The Commission’s decision today is a major step forward,” said Jeff Chester, Executive Director of the Center for Digital Democracy. “We are especially gratified that this decision puts to rest the longstanding and disingenuous claims by the digital marketing industry that cookies and other persistent identifiers are not personally identifiable information. The revised rules also address the increasingly pervasive use of geolocation, behavioral targeting, and social media data collection.  But we are concerned about possible loopholes that could undermine the intent of the rules. CDD plans to continue closely analyzing the emerging marketing and data practices targeted at children--with a sharp focus on app developers and social marketers like Facebook--and will file complaints against any company that violates the new rules.”

 

“I am pleased that the FTC has updated its rules implementing the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act, as Congress intended, to specifically account for new technologies and marketing practices,” observed Angela Campbell, Director of the Institute for Public Representation at Georgetown University Law Center. “While the revised rules provide significantly greater protections for children, we will monitor industry compliance with the new regulations. Where we find that companies fall short, as we did recently with the Mobbles and SpongeBob Diner Dash apps, we will file additional requests for investigation.”

 

Kathryn Montgomery and Jeff Chester spearheaded the campaign to pass COPPA during the 1990s, leading a coalition of prominent education, health, and consumer groups in a two-year effort, and working closely with Angela Campbell and a team of law students at Georgetown Law’s Institute for Public Representation, which served as legal counsel to the coalition.

 

Although the law took effect in the formative period of Internet marketing, it was purposely designed to adapt to changes in both technology and business practices, with periodic reviews by the FTC to ensure its continued effectiveness. With the expansion of digital media platforms and the growing sophistication of online data collection and profiling, the need for updating the rules became increasingly urgent.

 

Since 2010, the Center for Digital Democracy and a coalition of other consumer and public health organizations have been urging the FTC to update its COPPA rules to encompass the expanding array of digital platforms and marketing services used to reach and target young people.  In a letter submitted to the Commissioners last week, more than 50 organizations – including the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, CDD, Common Sense Media, Consumer Federation of America, Consumers Union, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Psychological Association, and the American Heart Association – strongly endorsed the agency’s proposed rules, calling for timely action to adopt them.

 

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