FPF was in attendance at the hearing yesterday chaired by Rep. Mary Bono Mack (R-CA), entitled, “Protecting Children’s Privacy in a Electronic World.” Members of the Subcommittee showed their overwhelming support for the FTC’s efforts to better protect children in their proposed revisions to COPPA. Rep. Bono Mack stated that FTC had hit the “sweet spot” on its rules and stressed the critical role that parents and the FTC have in “safeguarding the privacy of our children.”
In our previous blog post, we previously discussed that geolocation was added to the definition of personal information and requested the need for clarification regarding how this would affect app developers that do not collect any personal information from children. Mary Engle, the Associate Director for Advertising Practices of the Bureau of Consumer Protection at the FTC, testified that geolocation was always covered by COPPA. She further stated that including persistent identifiers under the definition of personal information was intended to close the gaps to ensure that online behavioral advertising is not conducted on children. This still leaves us with questions regarding how the FTC plans on applying some of these revisions. Morgan Reed, Executive Director of The Association for Competitive Technology, urged the Committee to consider the difference between “sharing” and “collecting.” “Our concern is that a developer adding a social networking button such as a Facebook “Like” button would automatically be held in violation of COPPA, even though no direct information about the child is shared.” Other discussion revolved around whether the protections should go beyond the FTC’s revisions to include teens or whether teens could have the option of removing information about them via an “eraser” button, positions expressed by Dr. Kathryn Montgomery, director of the Ph.D. Program of American University’s School of Communication, and Alan Simpson, VP of Policy at Common Sense Media. See witness testimonies here.