FTC eyes updates to online child privacy rules

Looking to strengthen the rules, the Federal Trade Commission is proposing revisions that include adding geolocation information to the definition of "personal information."

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In an effort to keep up with changing technology, the FTC is proposing changes to online privacy rules that give parents control over the type of information that Web sites can collect from kids under 13.

The proposed amendments are an update to the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act, which became effective in 2000. The possible revisions focus on five areas, including parental notice, the definition of personal information, and the confidentiality and security of children's personal information.

One notable change would be updating the definition of personal information to include geolocation information, as well as other kinds of identifiers such as "tracking cookies used for behavioral advertising." Other changes would streamline parental notice. The agency said such updates are "intended to ensure that key information will be presented to parents in a succinct 'just-in-time' notice, and not just in a privacy policy."

The agency said it also wants to strengthen rules regarding confidentiality and security of children's personal information.

Specifically, the Commission proposes adding a requirement that operators ensure that any service providers or third-parties to whom they disclose a child's personal information have in place reasonable procedures to protect it, that operators retain the information for only as long as is reasonably necessary, and that they properly delete that information by taking reasonable measures to protect against unauthorized access to, or use in connection with, its disposal.

The FTC says it's aiming to find a balance point between keeping children safe and avoiding undue burdens on companies as technology continues its hyperpaced evolution.

"In this era of rapid technological change, kids are often tech savvy but judgment poor. We want to ensure that the COPPA Rule is effective in helping parents protect their children online, without unnecessarily burdening online businesses," said FTC Chairman Jon Leibowitz said in a statement. "We look forward to the continuing thoughtful input from industry, children's advocates, and other stakeholders as we work to update the Rule."

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