Parents Want Tighter Online Privacy Laws for Children, Survey Says

By Mike Bock — December 07, 2012 1 min read
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Parents overwhelmingly support a requirement for online companies to seek parental approval before collecting personal information from children under 13, a new survey says, suggesting that parents would support a series of proposed updates to current child online privacy laws that would address new data collection practices that have emerged in recent years.

In the past few years, the Federal Trade Commission has weighed a series of changes that would tighten or revise the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act. Among the possible changes mentioned in an FTC press release include a measure that would alert children and parents that tracking software is being used to collect personal information and a measure that would force mixed audience websites to age-screen all visitors in order to provide COPPA’s protections only to users under age 13.

According to the survey, eight out of ten adults disapprove of advertisers and website operators collecting and using information about a child’s activities online for marketing purposes, and nine in ten disapprove of companies collecting information about child while he or she is using a cellphone.

The Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act requires that websites obtain a parent’s consent before collecting personal details, such as home addresses or e-mail addresses, from children under 13. But supporters for a revised bill say website owners use loopholes and data tracking to gain personal information, and the current bill does not include current technology. From the survey’s press release:

Respondents expressed disapproval of a number of techniques increasingly employed by many child-directed websites -- 80% of adults were opposed to allowing advertisers to collect and use information about a child’s activities online, even in cases where advertisers do not know the actual name and address of a child.

Despite the overwhelming parental support for protecting the online privacy of children under 13, many companies seem to think tighter restrictions on collecting private information would ultimately do more harm than good, and stricter laws could ultimately dissuade tech companies from offering services to children altogether.

The survey, which was commissioned by Common Sense Media and the Center for Digital Democracy, also polled adults without children, but the results were mostly consistent among both groups. Check out the full press release here.

A version of this news article first appeared in the Digital Education blog.