Online Tracking of Kids' Private Information Is Growing -- Here's What Every Parent Needs to Know

If your kids use the Internet, mobile phones, online games, or social networks, they're protected by the Children's Online Privacy and Protection Act (COPPA), which prevents companies from collecting personal information about kids under 13 without parental consent.

COPPA was passed by Congress in 1998. We don't have to tell you that there have been major technological changes since then. While many new technologies provide our kids with access to information, broaden their horizons, and maybe make their lives more fun, they also provide new ways for kids to leak information that compromises their privacy. Here's what you need to know from Common Sense Media

Digital life has lots of benefits -- online tracking isn’t one of them. Our online digital world lets kids connect with family and friends and consume, create, and share enormous amounts of content. It also lets companies track kids and collect their personal information.

Online tracking of kids is growing.
Tracking and profiling kids online -- and selling their information to advertisers and data brokers -- has quickly become widespread. The Wall Street Journal recently found that the top 50 websites for kids and teens installed 4,123 cookies and other tracking tools on a test computer -- 30 percent more than were installed by the top 50 general sites.

Proposed changes to COPPA
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) recently proposed several important updates to the COPPA rules to help keep pace with changes in technology. The updates would cover:

--GPS/geolocation technology and mobile apps

--Cookies and other technologies that are used to track children across websites and services

--Updated definitions of personally identifying information (which already included name, street address, Social Security Number) to protect GPS info, pictures, audio, and video of children

Other proposed changes include up-front explanations of how and why your kids' information will be used and what information has already been collected. You can read more about the proposed rule changes on the FTC website.

These proposed changes aren't yet final. As the FTC reviews them, it's especially important that they hear feedback from parents (and others who care for kids) -- not just from lobbyists for data miners and ad brokers.

If you want to voice your support, visit Common Sense Media and click the "Contact the FTC" button to send an email with your thoughts about kids' privacy and keeping COPPA up to date with today's technology. Please customize your email with general information about your family. Common Sense will compile the emails and submit them to the FTC.

To learn more, read “Protecting Our Kids’ Privacy in a Digital World.” 

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