According to a November 5, 2012, New York Times article, technology and media companies have joined trade groups and marketing associations in opposing the Federal Trade Commission’s (FTC’s) efforts to update provisions implemented under the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA). As regulators look to expand the types of data-collection activities covered by COPPA, companies such as Facebook, Google and Twitter have reportedly pushed back against these proposals as unduly onerous and likely to stifle all Web-based services created for children.
Industry analysts have purportedly noted that once FTC requires parental consent for companies to use customer code numbers to track children, the agency “might someday require… similar consent for a practice that represents the backbone of digital marketing and advertising—using such code numbers to track the online activities of adults.” Furthermore, social media platforms have apparently taken issue with a plan to hold third parties liable “if they know or have reason to know that they are collecting personal data on children’s sites.”
“The social networks say they cannot keep track of the many sites that download their software plug-ins, and they cannot know whether they are inadvertently collecting data on children’s sites,” reports Times journalist Natasha Singer. “Google and Apple made a similar argument, telling regulators that app platforms like Android and iTunes store should not be held liable for the data collection practices of the children’s apps they sell.”
But children’s advocates have vocally defended the proposed rules as necessary to protect children’s identities online. “Until there are some rules, marketers will continue to use what they have to penetrate children’s lives,” said American University Communications Professor Kathryn Montgomery, who previously urged Congress to pass COPPA. “Without constraints, it could easily get out of hand.”