FOR THE WEEK OF SEP. 19, 2011
Government wants tighter online privacy safeguards for pre-teens
Find a technology article, review or ad of interest and tell why it's appealing.
Spot a photo or coverage of anything else pre-teens can't use or do -- at least not without parents.
Look for an age rule at the registration page for interactive forums or reader responses at this paper's site.
National regulators, trying to keep pace with technology advances, wants to tighten privacy rules for computer users under 13. Proposed changes to a law called the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act focus on parental notice, the definition of personal data, security safeguards and other areas. When adopted after comments this fall from businesses, parents, educators and safety advocates, the new Federal Trade Commission rules would cover news and entertainment sites, social media, fan clubs and any other website that gather information through registration or contest entries.
Site operators would have to post clear notices and get parental OK before collecting information from children, offer more ways to obtain that consent in writing, and prove they can protect children's personal information. The government also wants to expand the definition of personal information' to include geographic location and "tracking cookies used for behavioral advertising." That refers to codes identifying computers or handheld devices, which let firms target offers based on sites visited. Changes don't cover teens, as some groups had suggested.
Youngsters actually would get a bit more freedom under the pending new rules, which say children can take part in social media, chat rooms and forums without parental consent as long as the operators keep all or nearly all personal data from being made public. Even though Facebook and other interactive sites say users must be older than 13, the age limit is widely ignored. More than 7.5 million under-13s are active users of Facebook, Consumer Reports magazine estimated in June. That group includes more than 5 million younger than 10, according to the respected publication.
Official says: "In this era of rapid technological change, kids are often tech-savvy but judgment poor." -- Jon Leibowitz, chairman of Federal Trade Commission
Facebook says: "Reports have highlighted just how difficult it is to implement age restrictions on the Internet and that there is no single solution to ensuring younger children don't circumvent a system or lie about their age. We appreciate the attention that these reports and other experts are giving this matter." -- Company statement, May 2011
Senator says: "These newly updated rules are necessary to keep pace with the way kids under 13 are interacting on the Internet and how online services are evolving." -- Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass.
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