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Bill would limit sale of kids' data

Loose-lipped kids on the Net will no longer be fair game for demographic-hungry marketers if a bill on its way to Congress becomes law.

Loose-lipped kids on the Net won't be fair game for demographic-hungry marketers anymore if a bill on its way to Congress becomes law.

Rep. Bob Franks (R-New Jersey) will reintroduce House Bill 3508 this week, which requires parental consent before selling any "personal identifiable information" collected through any medium from children under age 16.

However, the bill, called the Children's Privacy Protection and Parental Empowerment Act, doesn't prohibit marketers from rounding up names and other data from young Netizens; the focus of the bill is on that information being sold without parents' permission. Franks also wants to keep the information out of the hands of people who may want to harm children.

Legislatures across the country have sunk their teeth into the issue of consumer privacy in cyberspace. The Consumer Internet Privacy Protection Act of 1997, introduced by Rep. Bruce Vento (D-Minnesota) last month, would make it illegal for online service providers to give out subscriber information without users' consent. A bill introduced last week by Republican Rep. Phil Dyer in the state of Washington would limit the commercial use of personal information contained in state agencies' electronic records.

Franks's bill has raised concerns about minors' right to surf without parents' knowledge. But many businesses collect information about parents from children as well, which gives parents a right to know, said Frank Di Stefano, legislative assistant to Franks.

"For example, companies set up games online for kids, but before kids even play the game, they have to give out their parents' names, address, telephone, and how much money their parents make," he said.

"A lot of parents don't even know this is being collected, let alone sold."