Senate panel considers update of child privacy act

A Senate panel this morning considered updating a longstanding online privacy bill aimed at protecting children on the Internet.

The concern is that the Children’s Online Privacy and Protection Act (COPPA), enacted in 1998, has fallen out of step with the way the Internet has evolved. No one was talking about social networks then. Behavioral targeting on the Internet was unknown. There was no mobile Web, nor the associated concerns about location tracking.

The Federal Trade Commission, which is charged with enforcing COPPA, has begun a proceeding considering various updates of the rules, including extending them to include adolescents. Alternately, Congress could update the statute to broaden the agency’s enforcement authority.

Facebook and Microsoft stood in as the industry representatives, arguing against an expansion of the rules while touting their strict adherence to the law as it’s currently implemented. For Facebook, which sets 13 as the minimum age for its members, extending the COPPA requirements to encompass adolescents would be a major blow.

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