COPPA Updates In Full Effect
In light of the changing landscape of the Internet, more specifically the rising importance of free hosting, social media and mobile technology, the updated Children's Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) guidelines are officially in effect beginning Monday, July 1.
The FTC has been overseeing COPPA since its creation in 2000, an act that defines the language that must be used within the privacy policies of web sites regarding children 13 and under. The updated regulations ask that children under 13 receive consent prior to transmitting any personal data.
The Reason: Internet Evolution
Gone are the days the Internet is used exclusively to obtain information and meet new people in chat rooms. Now, we interact with our loved ones and even celebrities using social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, and Tumblr. A rising number of us are doing all of this on a mobile device. Most of these sites involve collecting a user's personal information in order to target marketing to that person. The old structure of COPPA did not address this.
The new COPPA addresses these issues. Websites must now ensure parental consent is given before they can collect any data. This includes screen names, profile pictures. GPS data, and IP address. This also applies to mobile apps and third-party advertisers.
Not Everyone Supportive Of Changes
As with any policy change, there were detractors. Certain mobile app developers and advertisers were up in arms through the entire two years leading up to the changes, stating these changes would hurt them — their wallets more specifically.
“With the upcoming new rules for the Children's Online Privacy Act (COPPA) on July 1, app developers will need to pay closer attention to their security policies when building apps, how they plan to verify the user's age and what checks they put into place to ensure children do not have access to these apps,” said the security intelligence director at Webroot, Grayson Milbourne. “Additionally, while their app may not break COPPA rules, the use of aggressive ad-engines that request user data might put the app developer at risk.”
COPPA Updates In Full Effect: Proactive Parenting
The first and foremost thing you can do as a parent: make sure you are closely monitoring your child's online activities. Even if you grant access to your child to have a Facebook or Yahoo! account, you should be collecting login information and examining their activity frequently. If they are doing anything that you are uncomfortable with, address it immediately. At the end of the day, remember that you are the parent, and it's not going to kill them to have Internet privileges revoked for a period of time. Hurt feelings are a whole lot better than having their personal data compromised, or worse.
Is there a way to allow your children to build their own website? A safe hosting provider, cheap hosting or free hosting? Numerous options exist, marketing themselves as safe, kid-friendly hosting companies.
- myfamily .com – This is owned by Ancestry.com, and allows you to create a family website. Put your child in charge, allowing them to blog about your family activities, sharing with family and friends. The neat thing about this social website: you decide who can access your family site. Send out invites to those you want looking at your pictures and information, and the rest of the world can't see a thing!
- Family Crossings – Another site boasting “a safe place to share, connect, and play.” It is a private version of Facebook basically, just like myfamily.com, where you allow access to view the site. Your pictures, blog posts, and calendars can be shared among family members, and the site even features a discussion board just for your family. Offering an online cookbook to share (never lose Grandma's cookie recipe again!), wish list functionality (no more gifts you'll never use!), and a place to play games, it is a great choice.
- Kidblog – This is geared towards classrooms, where teachers set up accounts for kids K-12. Only the students, teacher, and parents can access posts. The best part: “Kidblog is fully COPPA compliant and does not require any personal information from students.”
- Fanlala – a social networking blogging site targeting preteens and teens.
In the end, it isn't up to any government-imposed act that will keep your child safe. It is your involvement in what your children are doing online that will protect them, plain and simple.
Do you allow your child unmonitored access to the Internet? Does this make you think any differently about your attitude towards your child's Internet activity? Would you allow your child to maintain a free or cheap hosting website?