Thoughts on the 2013 Do Not Track Kids Act

Screen Shot 2013-11-16 at 8.31.10 AMThis week Federal Senators and Representatives got together and introduced the bicameral 2013 Do Not Track Kids Act. The new law, which should see widespread support, picks up where the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) leaves off, extending protection for minors who spend time online, and their personal information. It just doesn’t go far enough.

According to Senator Markey:

“…kids are spending more time online, at younger ages and with more companies watching. When it comes to kids and their use of the Internet in the new mobile environment, it is especially important that the strongest privacy protections are in place so that children do not have personal information collected or disclosed.”

So far so good, right? Well, our principal objection to the Act as proposed is that while it does do more to protect minors from advertisers, it does not improve protections for minors against predators or internet users who would otherwise harass or bully them. Are you more worried about your child being stalked online by and advertiser or a predator?

Our misgivings aside, there are some positive provisions put forward in the bill:

Eraser Button – the idea of an internet eraser button, made popular by a new California law passed this year, makes it easier for minors to fully delete social media accounts. While the California law applies to minors 13 and under only, the Federal Act would guarantee similar protection for minors 15 and under.

Targeted Marketing and Collection of Personal and Location Information – for teens aged 13 – 15, advertisers would be required to obtain the consent of the minor before serving targeted advertising or collecting personal or location information.

Here’s what we’d like to see included in this or other legislation:

Real Age Verification – it is widely known that for most websites, the age verification system relies on self-affirmation. If I say I’m 20 years old, the site believes it. We would like to see an effective age verification system in place.

Real Protection for Minors – it may not go too far to demand parental consent before any minor is allowed to disclose any personal or location information online, where predators and cyberbullies are known to be active.

Feel good protection from advertisers falls short of combating some of the most serious issues facing minors online. Do you have thoughts on the issue? Please feel free to let us know in the comments.


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