FTC Seeking Regulatory Changes for Collection of Children’s Online Data

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The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is currently considering regulatory changes that may prevent websites and online applications from collecting data about young Internet users, according to The New York Times.

The proposed changes would alter the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPA) of 1998, which explicitly states that websites must obtain parental consent before collecting personal information, such as street addresses or telephone numbers, from Internet users under the age of 13.

Many advocates have said advancements in technology - specifically, the rise of mobile applications - have made COPA obsolete. Recent FTC proposals would overhaul the current COPA regulations, which would place greater restrictions on companies and analytics firms that track minors’ Internet usage, mostly via cookies and other tracking tools embedded on web pages and other online apps.

If the new regulations are implemented, websites in the United States would be required to obtain parental permission before tracking underage users for advertising purposes. The new proposals would also require parental consent before children under the age of 13 could upload photographs of themselves to websites. 

Last year, the FTC filed a complaint against the developers of several iPhone apps, who collected, and then publicly posted, personal information from thousands of children. Last August, nearly 20 advocacy groups filed a complaint to the FTC, accusing several corporations, including McDonalds, Viacom and General Mills, of collecting the email addresses of underage users on several of their websites, according to The New York Times.