Legislation Hasn’t Kept up with Today’s Vast Online World!
Today’s children are connected to the internet almost 24/7. The online world and offline world are one and the same for kids today. Yet laws such as COPPA (1998) designed to protect minors online are out dated and have not kept pace with changes in their vast online world. Apps were unheard of in 1998 and Facebook was founded in 2004.
Growing Privacy Risk
Children and teens face a growing risk to their privacy as the lucrative revenue stream from targeted advertising built around tracking children’s online activities tramples the interests of children’s privacy and protection. Many kids are completely unaware that by using free Facebook, or downloading a free social app that they are unwittingly allowing the companies behind these social networking services to collect their likes, dislikes, interests, friends lists and more to be used for targeted advertising.
The targeted ads may not be what parents wish their children to see. My own daughter who was chatting with a friend on Facebook about the negatives of smoking, received an E-cigarette ad.
Parents are Worried!
Parents worry about this more than other online risks according to a Pew study of 2012. Many parents, 81 percent, said they were most worried about how much information advertisers were learning about their kids’ online behavior and about the future impact the information might have on their children. A full 91 percent of parents believe that advertisers should obtain parental permission before putting tracking cookies/software on a child’s computer device.
The Do Not Track Bill Will Help!
I commend Senator Markey of Massachusetts and Representative Barton of Texas for introducing the Do Not Track Bill which would increase the scope of COPPA and broaden the coverage to minors 13 to 15 years old. This legislation is urgently needed to give parents a say in protecting their children’s privacy in the online world and providing kids a way to “erase” personal information when necessary.
Kids can not speak for themselves and are often unaware of the risks they face in both the online world and offline world. They are most likely unaware of long term consequences of having their information tracked and available for third parties and others. It’s always been up to parents, law enforcement providers, and legislators to work at protecting our vulnerable children, as big industry making big money does not.
Keywords: COPPA, Do-Not-Track-Bill, online-safety, online-privacy, tweens, teens, parents, tracking-software