As the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) begins a review of its Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA), and the connected world becomes ever more connected, a gaggle of advocacy groups is calling for more stringent protections to protect youngsters.
Comments were offered to the FTC (PDF) by groups such as the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood (CCFC), the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), Children Now and the Consumer Federation of America (CFA). The advocates argued that when COPPA was originally passed in 1998, computers were the only means of accessing the Internet. Now, of course, cell phones, videogame machines and even interactive television provide additional ways for children to get online, and “these developments have increased the risks to children’s privacy.”
In a section on videogames, the advocates noted that:
The types of user information collected by these online gaming consoles overlaps, and sometimes exceeds, the data captured during traditional web browsing.
The groups were also concerned with the rising amount of advertising found in games and is further alarmed by privacy issues that could emerge from new technologies like Microsoft’s Kinect. Kinect’s ability to recognize facial features could allow advertisers to “determine when children are playing, what their gender is, and to analyze their game preferences and behavior,” allowing “unprecedented potential for invasiveness.”
It was suggested that the FTC “clarify or define” terms used in COPPA, strengthen its safe harbor program and take a “more proactive role in uncovering and informing the public about how marketers are collecting and using information from and about individuals.”
CNET, meanwhile, jumped on an FTC consideration that online operators might be forced to utilize different types of consent in order to serve young users, such as signed forms or a credit card, to imply that such uses could be adapted to online or connected videogames for instance.
Progress and Freedom Foundation Attorney Berin Szoka said that such an implementation would be “divorced from practical realities,” adding, “It's a burden on site operators. It's a burden on speech rights, especially when you're talking about teens, to access information without parental consent.”