Protecting Children’s Privacy Online at the FTC: Statement of Kathryn Montgomery, PhD

CDD will soon file at the FTC on how to ensure the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act [COPPA] can better protect the online privacy of children under 13.  It’s a 1998 law that we led the campaign to have enacted.  Here’s a brief excerpt from what our colleague Prof. Kathryn Montgomery told the FTC today:

Statement of Kathryn C. Montgomery, PhD

Professor, School of Communication

American University

Protecting Kids’ Privacy Online: Reviewing the COPPA Rule

Federal Trade Commission

June 2, 2010

For the past decade, the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) has served as an effective safeguard for young consumers in the online marketing environment. Because the legislation was passed during the early stages of Internet e-commerce, COPPA established a clear set of “rules of the road” to help guide the development of the children’s digital marketplace. The law created a level playing field, ensuring that every commercial player—from the largest children’s media companies to the smallest start-ups – would treat young people fairly.

Congress intended COPPA’s basic framework to be flexible, anticipating changes in both technology and business practices, and requiring periodic reviews by the Federal Trade Commission to ensure its continued effectiveness. Today’s children are growing up in a ubiquitous digital media environment, where mobile devices, instant messaging, social networks, virtual reality, avatars, interactive games, and online video have become ingrained in their personal and social experiences. The online marketing practices of the 1990s have been eclipsed by a new generation of tracking and targeting techniques.

In its current review, the Federal Trade Commission must ensure that its COPPA rules include the full range of Internet-enabled or -connected services, including the increasingly ever-present cell phones children use, along with Web-connected gaming devices and online, interactive video.  Moreover, COPPA’s definition of personal information must be revised to include the latest methods of identifying and targeting online consumers, covering the so-called “cookies” that are used for interactive marketing data collection, as well as “mobile geo-location information.” With these and other necessary updates, the law will continue to ensure that children reap the benefits of the digital age without compromising their privacy, safety, and wellbeing.

Author: jeff

Jeff Chester is executive director of the Center for Digital Democracy. A former journalist and filmmaker, Jeff's book on U.S. electronic media politics, entitled "Digital Destiny: New Media and the Future of Democracy" was published by The New Press in January 2007. He is now working on a new book about interactive advertising and the public interest.