Associations Are Split Over Online Child Privacy Changes

A number of groups filed briefs regarding the Federal Trade Commission's plan to revise its guidelines under the 14-year-old Children's Online Privacy Protection Act.

A number of trade groups are hitting the “dislike” button on a policy change. But some are hitting “like.”

… the proposed Rule significantly overreaches and raises real concerns for free expression and innovation in online services for children, older minors, and adults.

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is considering changes to the implementation of the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) — a privacy law that hasn’t been updated since 1998 — to regulate how third-party content is presented to minors in an effort to protect their privacy.

Technology-oriented groups and companies, as well as groups that serve younger audiences, filed a series of briefs last week regarding the rules. Among the companies and groups fighting for and against the changes:

Facebook and Google, which both filed briefs against the changes. Facebook says [PDF] the new rules “would infringe upon their constitutionally protected right to engage in protected speech,” while Google is concerned [PDF] about the “practical and technical challenges created by the commission’s cumulative proposed amendments.” The proposed changes to COPPA would affect two key pieces of social currency: Facebook’s Like button and Google’s +1 button.

The Center for Democracy and Technology (CDT), known for its consumer advocacy, says the rules go too far. “We agree that more should be done to stop unwanted behavioral advertising to children,” the CDT wrote in a filing, “but the proposed rule significantly overreaches and raises real concerns for free expression and innovation in online services for children, older minors, and adults.” Similarly, the American Civil Liberties Union raises free-speech concerns.

The Center for Digital Democracy, meanwhile, argues in favor [PDF] of the tougher rules, even saying that in some ways, the rules don’t go far enough. “We also urge the FTC to hold those that collect or use children’s personal information responsible for COPPA compliance, whether they are a child-directed website or service or a third party that is collecting or using personal data on a child-directed website or service,” the group wrote.

Trade organizations, including the Promotional Marketing Association, the Internet Advertising Bureau, and the Toy Industry Association, also filed briefs against the changes, arguing variously about the difficulty of the changes as well as the financial burden they could cause.

The FTC is still making final decisions regarding changes to its guidelines, though Rep. Ed Markey (D-MA), who wrote the original law in 1998, largely supports the FTC’s direction.

(TMG archive photo)

Ernie Smith

By Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is a former senior editor for Associations Now. MORE

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