The rules that limit Web sites and marketers from collecting data on kids under 13 may spread to teens as old as 18 if a group of child advocates has its way.
The group--which includes the American Academy of Pediatrics, Children Now, and the Center for Digital Democracy--plans to ask the Federal Trade Commission on Friday to establish rules that will help protect teens from data collection and targeted marketing while they socialize on sites like MySpace and Facebook.
"We ask that the FTC...recommend adoption of voluntary industry guidelines that define 'sensitive data' to include the online activities of all persons under the age of eighteen and prohibit the collection of sensitive information for behavioral advertising purposes," according to a copy of the letter seen by CNET News.com.
Sensitive data refers to contact information for a person, such as an e-mail address or home number, as well as the Web surfing habits of that person.
The letter will be delivered to the FTC on Friday to meet a deadline for comments on the Commission's proposed privacy standards for interactive marketing. The FTC has suggested that the industry regulate itself by disclosing to consumers any intention to collect information about them for the purpose of targeting ads, and obtaining their consent to do so, among other rules.
But the CDD and others want the FTC to go further by expanding the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act to cover teens between 13 and 18 years old. COPPA, which went into effect in 1999, requires that Web sites ask for parental permission before they can collect any personal data about a child, among other stipulations.
"Although adolescents are more sophisticated consumers than young children are, they face their own age-related vulnerabilities regarding privacy. Adolescents face enormous pressures to socially interact online--providing personal information in the process--and are less able to understand the potential long-term consequences from having their information available to advertisers, other individuals, and third-parties," according to the letter.
The CDD also wants the FTC to clarify COPPA so that it prevents Web sites from collecting data on the surfing habits of kids to target ads to them.
Specifically, the letter asks that the FTC "revisit and clarify its COPPA rule to require affirmative express consent from parents when advertisers collect information used to send individualized ads to children as part of behavioral advertising."
Jeff Chester, executive director of the CDD, said that his group and others are trying to bring the FTC up with the times.
"The commission still has a late 1990's understanding of online marketing," said Chester, who helped lead the campaign to create COPPA in 1998. "This filing is to help the FTC recognize they must ensure children and adolescents' privacy is protected in the age of Facebook and MySpace."