Online privacy protection laws for kids are outdated, kids wellbeing group says

The internet has changed so much since the previous kids privacy legislation was passed.

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The Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) may potentially see several updates that were long overdue, that’s according to a non-profit organization that champions the welfare of kids. Originally formulated twenty years ago, the current version of COPPA is no longer capable of shielding children from privacy abuse in the era of social media and IoT devices.

The COPPA was passed to ensure that children could not fake their age for misusing the internet and to also protect them from targeted advertisements. It is found that more than 90% of the U.S households have children that access mobile devices and more than 40% of the children are said to have their own device. In such cases, ensuring an up-to-date COPPA is much necessary.

The University of California, Berkeley, researchers found that among half of 6000 free children’s apps in the Google Play Store may be serving advertisements that violate COPPA.

Jim Steyer, the founder and CEO of Common Sense said that children data ranging from their activities to hobbies is often on sale from their first few years of life itself.

Apart from social media and mobile applications, IoT devices such as baby monitors are also exploited by hackers. More than 50% of the connected devices fail to provide necessary information on the data and personal information collected, used or disclosed.

“Historically, data brokers are very protective about how they go about their services,” Steyer explained to Fast Company. “Data brokers can acquire data if a parent posts information on sites such as Evite, if a parent purchases products online, or if a soon-to-be-mom starts a baby registry.  Some states post public records online, like in Virginia. Most of the time, a data broker can acquire data by other means that have nothing to do with what people post.”

Steyer testified and urged for the much necessary updates for COPPA at the U.S Senate Committee on Consumer Perspectives for Data Privacy. Steyer and Common Sense envision a COPPA 2.0 where parents of children under the age of 13 are given control over online tracking through an “eraser button” that can help them wipe out any content posted online.

Steyer also wants to prohibit targeted advertisements on children and prevent sites from claiming to not have children on their websites to steer clear from COPPA violations.

Steyer further added that children and teen’s connected devices are to be outfitted with a “privacy dashboard” that informs parents on all the data-collection practices and security provisions in place. According to the envisioned COPPA 2.0, connected devices failing to ensure a certain standard of security and privacy shall be prohibited as well.

“Without strong protections, lines drawn on what companies can and cannot do, and focused efforts by federal regulators, these businesses will continue to collect and monetize kids’ data.

A comprehensive children’s online privacy bill is crucial to ensuring that our future generations are adequately protected from potential abuses online.

By expanding and enhancing the current COPPA rules about the collection, use and disclosure of children’s information, including providing important rights and protections to teenagers, this legislation would strengthen online safeguards for all young people,” said Steyer.

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