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FTC Proposes Modifications to COPPA

The online security privacy of children has always been a major cause for concern for parents and there has been a lot of debate on how to make the internet safe for kids. In today’s world, the option of banning children from using the internet is virtually impossible. At the same time, you cannot ignore  privacy issues which can lead to some very serious complications if not taken care of. There have been examples of kids being victimized online as they are innocent and vulnerable.

This issue is not new and the Federal Trade Commission had introduced the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA), which dealt exclusively with children’s privacy issues. But the act was introduced when technology was not as developed as it is today. Mobile technology has also developed over the past couple of years and there were no clauses which dealt with mobile related privacy issues. There were a many comments on the COPPA and the FTC was under pressure to make some changes to the act, and finally, the FTC has succumbed to the pressure.

It has now announced a few modifications to the act. According to the official release, the FTC has issued a ‘Supplemented Notice of Proposed Rulemaking’ which will allow it to add some clauses that will address  children’s privacy concerns, which arose due to the advancement in technology.

Parents Are Given the Authority

According to the notice, the modifications in the rules will give the parents the ultimate authority regarding the collection of information about under-13s. If a website is specifically designed for kids who are under the age of 13 and it should collect  information from its users, then the parents consent should be exclusively obtained. There should also be a notice regarding this privacy issue which should be displayed at all times and the sites should start collecting data only after the parental consent is obtained. This will also eliminate some concerns where in adults pose as kids using anonymous social media accounts and take advantage of them.

Modifications to Provide Flexibility for Operators

Some of the proposed changes will also benefit the operators of websites in more ways than one. For example, let us consider a site that is exclusively meant for kids under the age of 13. If the site wants to incorporate services from a third party vendor to their site and that service will also collect data from the users, then the service providers will also be considered as an operator. This will mean that the FTC rules that apply to the operators will apply to the third part vendor also. Hence, they will have to comply with privacy issues.

Screening Visitors Based on Their Age

Another proposed change in the rules is aimed at sites that have visitors who are both over and under the age of 13 years. If a user is below 13 years, then the COPPA rule will have to be implemented and those privacy rules should be enforced. This is a very good change indeed and it will prevent a few security threats like such as under aged users visiting links meant for adults. It will also allow the operator to decide which services are fit for the under aged users and which ones are appropriate for the mature users. This rule will be exclusively for sites that have users of mixed age groups. A site that targets under-13 people cannot be subjected to this rule.

Changes Can Bring About Some Mixed Reactions

Not everyone will be happy with these changes. For example, the children will be subject to a lot more restrictions than they are now. This will also mean more effort on the part of the operator to ensure the privacy of the users. We will have to wait and see how exactly the reactions will be when these rules are actively enforced.

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