Facebook for Children: One step closer

Christmas came early this year for Facebook and other social media sites. On December 19, the FTC announced that it had “adopted final amendments to the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Rule.”  In its press release the FTC states that these new amendments “strengthen kids’ privacy protections and give parents greater control over the personal information that websites and online services may collect from children under 13.”

In 1998, Congress passed the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act, establishing with it a rule that requires operators of websites/online services directed to children under 13 (or have actual knowledge that they are collecting information from children under 13) give notice to parents and get their verifiable consent before collecting, using, or disclosing such personal information, and keep secure the information they collect from children.  The rule also prohibits them from conditioning children’s participation in activities on the collection of more personal information than is reasonably necessary for them to participate.  The rule contains a “safe harbor” provision that allows industry groups or others to seek FTC approval of self-regulatory guidelines.

Taken from the release, the final amendments are as follows:

  • modify the list of “personal information”  that cannot be collected without parental notice and consent, clarifying that this category includes geolocation information, photographs, and videos;
  • offer companies a streamlined, voluntary and transparent approval process for new ways of getting parental consent;
  • close a loophole that allowed kid-directed apps and websites to permit third parties to collect personal information from children through plug-ins without parental notice and consent;
  • extend coverage in some of those cases so that the third parties doing the additional collection also have to comply with COPPA;
  • extend the COPPA Rule to cover persistent identifiers that can recognize users over time and across different websites or online services, such as IP addresses and mobile device IDs;
  • strengthen data security protections by requiring that covered website operators and online service providers take reasonable steps to release children’s personal information only to companies that are capable of keeping it secure and confidential;
  • require that covered website operators adopt reasonable procedures for data retention and deletion; and
  • strengthen the FTC’s oversight of self-regulatory safe harbor programs.

As reported by the NY Times, Erin Egan, Facebook’s chief privacy officer, wrote in an email of the decision:  “We are pleased the Commission clarified the limited circumstances under which providers of social plugins would be subject to Coppa when those plugins are displayed on other websites.”

The new amendments use an “actual knowledge” standard for collecting information about children. “That means social networks and ad networks that collect information from children without knowing that their software is operating on a children’s site or app will not be liable.”

Read the full story at: http://bits.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/12/20/childrens-online-privacy-rules-winners-and-losers/


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