On Wednesday, federal regulators ruled to broaden the longstanding privacy rules covering children’s websites and mobile applications. The ruling, which expands on the Children’s Online Privacy protection Act of 1998, or Coppa, will give parents more control over the data that is collected about their children.
Coppa was introduced in 1998 and stated that if an operator of a website wanted to obtain any personal information from a child under the age of 13 - like first and last names, phone numbers, home addresses or e-mail addresses- the parents must be notified beforehand and consent to the release of the information.
According to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), the updated rules are trying to keep pace with the growing use of mobile devices, like smartphones and tablets, by children, with the intent for parents to prevent unwanted contact from strangers.
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“The Commission takes seriously its mandate to protect children’s online privacy in this ever-changing technological landscape,” said FTC Chairman Jon Leibowitz. “I am confident that the amendments to the COPPA Rule strike the right balance between protecting innovation that will provide rich and engaging content for children, and ensuring that parents are informed and involved in their children’s online activities.”
With so many new applications for photo sharing and other apps asking to use your location, the FTC modified what constitutes personal information to include geolocation information, photographs, and videos.
The new rules also offers companies a more streamlined, voluntary and transparent approval process for getting parental consent, which also received a few modifications. The new methods for obtaining parental consent now include electronic scans of signed parental consent forms, use of government issued identification, video-conferencing, and alternative payment systems like debit cards and electronic payment systems.
The confidentiality and security requirements were also updated stating that operators must retain the personal information for only as long as is necessary and must protect the information against unauthorized use or access during the disposal process.
The modified rules are a big step moving forward to not only safeguard a child’s personal information, but also gives parents more control over what online content their child is viewing.
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