The Federal Trade Commission announced that it is considering whether to revise the Children's Online Privacy Protection Rule enacted in 2000. The FTC's decision to review its current ruling is the result of children's increased use of technology and mobile devices.
The COPPA Rule was instituted to provide safeguards to children's online privacy and safety. The measure requires website operators to obtain parental consent before collecting, using or disclosing the personal information of child under the age of 13. Parents are also entitled to use their discretion in removing information that their children have provided to websites. Since the rule's inception, the FTC has brought 14 criminal cases and collected $3.2 million in civil penalties.
Online privacy, especially concerning children, has been pushed into the limelight as Facebook's recent privacy settings have sparked new debates in Congress. Facebook's new settings allow personal information that was previously deemed private to be made available to all users and some third parties. Information that is now publicly available includes work, education, current city, hometown and interests. The changes also allow third parties to store personal information for a 24-hour period and view a user's friends and their profiles. The changes resulted in a letter from four senators urging the leading social networking website to better protect its users' privacy.
The FTC plans on drafting a set of "guiding principles" for businesses concerning how they should handle privacy issues, an official told SC Magazine, a leading security publication.
Online privacy safeguards are paramount in reducing safety and identity theft risks. Many criminals use social networking websites to obtain personal information for illegal use, namely fraud and theft. Criminals can access personal and financial information through email phishing and collect data through networking sites. Even limited information such as place of employment, hometown, name and current address can jeopardize an individual's identity.
Parents should monitor their children's websites to ensure that no identifying information is listed that may be used for criminal purposes. Parents should also make sure that all security and anti-virus systems are up to date. Parents can protect their children from online predators by discussing the dangers of giving out personal information online.