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Differing views on COPPA

While the Federal Trade Commission is taking a fresh look at the Children’s Privacy Protection Act of 1998, the Senate Commerce Committee is taking a look of its own – in the form of a hearing today on children’s privacy and new technologies called by the Consumer Protection, Product Safety, and Insurance Subcommittee. Two witnesses at the hearing – American University professor Kathryn Montgomery and the Electronic Privacy Information Center’s Marc Rotenberg – called for COPPA’s expansion to include 13-to-17-year-olds, though neither referred to any impact this might have on teens’ free speech rights. Another key view, that of Berin Szoka of the Progress and Freedom Foundation in Washington, is that efforts to expand COPPA to include teens “put online privacy, child safety, free speech and anonymity on a collision course.” Such expansion, he said, would also “fail to make the online experience safer for adolescents because the reality is that the technology for reliable age verification simply doesn’t exist.” He was referring to the findings of the Internet Safety & Technical Task Force (here’s my blog post on it as a member of the task force). [And here is the FTC’s press release, linking to its written testimony at today’s hearing from Jessica Rich, deputy director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection.]

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  1. This blog is incorrect. What Prof. Montgomery and other privacy advocates told the Senate yesterday was that teen privacy should be protected–but not in the context of COPPA. It’s clear from the testimony that we we want adolescents to have the ability to control what information is collected and how it is done–giving them the autonomy they deserve. I urge you and your readers to examine the testimony: http://www.democraticmedia.org/coppa-testimony

    April 30, 2010
    • Anne #

      Apologies, Jeff. On the live streamed video of the hearing, I thought I heard Professor Montgomery join Professor Rotenberg in referring to teen privacy protection in the context of COPPA. I stand corrected. But how would what she is proposing be accomplished without verification of all users’ ages, an approach that the Internet Safety & Technical Task Force examined thoroughly and found to be a non-solution? I agree that the FTC needs to continue to keep a close watch on behavioral marketing on the Web and the mobile platform, but I’m concerned about the unintended consequences for teens of regulation that would attempt to verify a particular age group so as to protect them. How would it protect them in the process of making them more identifiable? Thank you for your comment and the link to Professor Montgomery’s testimony.

      April 30, 2010

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