Parents want more online protections for kids, privacy groups say

The Federal Trace Commission is weighing a new requirement that website and online service operators get permission from parents before collecting information from children under 13. Above, Mary Lee chats online with friends in Mayfield Heights, Ohio.
(Tony Dejak / Associated Press)

Parents object to the collecting of personal information from kids under 13 when they are online and using mobile devices, according to a new survey conducted by two privacy groups ahead of a vote from federal regulators on whether to strengthen privacy rules that protect children.

Common Sense Media and the Center for Digital Democracy released the survey of 2,000 adults on Thursday, saying it showed strong support for proposed changes in Federal Trade Commission regulations that would tighten enforcement of the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act, or COPPA, despite overwhelming opposition from technology and media giants.

Nine out of 10 adults support the proposal’s requirement that website and online service operators get permission from parents before collecting information from children under 13. Eight out of 10 adults said they opposed letting advertisers collect and use information about a child’s online activities, even if the advertisers do not know the name and address of the child.


Privacy advocates say the law enacted in 1998 has not kept up with rapidly evolving technology nor with the explosion of data collection and data mining on the Web and on mobile devices, particularly location tracking.

“This survey clearly shows that parents not only want COPPA, but they also want the crucial updates the FTC is weighing,” said James Steyer, chief executive of Common Sense Media. “These updates are key to ensuring our kids can reap the benefits of innovation without exploitation.”

Parents of teens are concerned, too. A survey last month by the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project found that 81% of parents of online teens say they are concerned about how much information advertisers can learn about their child’s online behavior, with some 46% being “very” concerned.

The proposed rule changes are meeting resistance from technology companies such as Apple, Facebook, Google and Twitter and from media giants such as Viacom and Disney. They argue the changes would be too burdensome and could prevent them from offering kids free online resources for education and entertainment.

Google said the new rules would “undermine the ability of sites and services to provide engaging online resources to children.”



Tighter preteen privacy rules urged

Some teens aren’t liking Facebook as much as older users

Giant social network Facebook may give access to children under 13

Follow me on Twitter @jguynn