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Study: Adults Wary of Tech That Tracks Kids Online

December 6, 2012

How to Keep Your Kids Safe (Parental Control)

Adults overwhelmingly support the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA), as well as proposed changes that will bring the law more in line with the 21st century, according to a new study.

According to a report commissioned by the Center for Digital Democracy and Common Sense Media, 90 percent of the 2,000 people surveyed support the act's basic requirement: parental consent before a website can collect information about kids under 13.

There was also "high levels of support" for safeguards against common data collection and targeted advertising schemes.

"The results of this poll should be a wake-up call to the industry that parents understand what's at stake for their kids in a digital world," Common Sense Media CEO James Steyer said in a statement. According to the company founder, the Internet industry argues that updates to COPPA would stifle innovation and cost jobs, "when in fact, they should respect the role of parents and use it [to] build customer trust."

COPPA has not been updated since 1998—before Facebook, Twitter, or smartphones. Given those vast changes in the technology landscape, the Federal Trade Commission has been reviewing COPPA in the hopes of bringing it more in line with 2012 realities. After asking for public comments on the matter in 2010, the agency in Sept. 2011 released several recommendations for how the law might be updated and opened that up to public comment. The agency received 350 comments on the matter, and released revised guidelines in August.

Most parents, it seems, are simply opposed to any sort of advertising targeted toward children. Eighty percent of adults don't support of the collection of kids' online activities, even if their name and address was not revealed.

The survey, which polled parents and non-parents, proved that the two factions agree on many points, including the fact that it is not OK for advertisers to collect information from a child's mobile phone, and that marketers should require a parent's permission before installing tracking software on a child's computer.

In the biggest majority reported, 96 percent of parents and 94 percent of adults disapprove of a website asking children for personal information about their friends.

"Children should be able to reap the benefits of this new participatory media culture without being subjected to techniques that take advantage of their developmental vulnerabilities," Dr. Kathryn Montgomery, professor of communication at American University and a leader of the original COPPA campaign, said in a statement. "We must ensure that the COPPA rules are updated effectively so that the generation of young people growing up online today will be treated fairly in the growing digital marketplace."

The Federal Trade Commission expects to announce a number of updates to the current COPPA regulations in the next few weeks, the groups said.




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