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FTC To Consider New Restrictions On Collecting Data From Children

Wendy Davis
Media Post
March 24, 2010

The Federal Trade Commission said Wednesday that it's seeking input from the public about whether to broaden regulations aimed at preserving children's privacy online.

The last time the FTC issued regulations regarding the federal Children's Online Privacy Protection Act was in 2000. The commission said it's now considering revamping the regulations due to "changes to the online environment ... including children's increasing use of mobile technology to access the Internet."

The 12-year-old Children's Online Privacy Protection Act prohibits companies from collecting personal information from children younger than 13 without their parents' consent. In a notice published in the Federal Register, the FTC specifically asks how the regulations regarding that law should apply to new platforms, including mobile, interactive TV and interactive gaming.

The commission also says it's considering whether the definition of "personal information" should be expanded to include "persistent IP addresses, mobile geolocation information or information collected in connection with online behavioral advertising."

That language is yet another sign that the FTC is concerned that even supposedly non-personally identifiable information -- that is, data other than name, address, phone numbers, etc. -- could be used to identify specific users. Last year, the FTC said in suggested guidelines for behavioral targeting that clickstream data potentially could be tied back to particular users.

Privacy advocate Jeff Chester, executive director of the Center for Digital Democracy, says he supports a ban on the use of behavioral targeting techniques on commercial sites geared toward children. "The agency must bring its regulations on COPPA up to date, including specifically prohibiting the use of cookies and other techniques that track, profile and target kids on children's commercial sites," he said.

Chester also said that advocates have asked the FTC to specifically address efforts to collect data from TV viewers.





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