As long as the Internet has been in existence, there has been a debate about privacy and how our information and web behavior is tracked. There are already so many systems put into place that subtly (or blatantly) monitor our “Likes,” our purchases, our recommendations and our browsing behavior. That should be expected by anyone who goes online. But when it comes to kids, how should that system be altered and should their interactions be treated differently?
According to the Wall Street Journal, the Federal Trade Commission is expected to announce new rules today that will change the way companies collect data about kids. The restrictions that were currently put into place by COPPA (Children’s Online Privacy and Protection Act) many years ago stipulate that parental consent is required to gather information from kids under the age of 13.
Since the Internet has progressed at a much faster rate than regulations have, these FTC rules aim to make restrictions more stringent and button up the thousands of websites, social networks, mobile apps and games that are collecting data without parental consent.
The Wall Street Journal article references an investigation it did in 2010 that found that “popular children’s websites installed more data-gathering technology on computers than websites aimed at adults.” Obviously, a big reason for gathering data from kids is so that marketers can target their online ads more effectively (and get those kids to beg you for that toy/junk food/whatever else).
Now, who’s to say that kids wouldn’t just easily bypass these “parental consent” pages and simply type in a fake email address or alter their birthdate? There’s no way to regulate that and with more that 7.5 million underage kids on Facebook, it’s clear that’s a practice that’s already in existence.
Kids online present a whole slew of issues and challenges that are still clearly being worked out, but doing anything possible to keep them safe and protected online is something everyone should have as their first priority.
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