IAB, ACLU stand against expanded FTC child privacy rule

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The Interactive Advertising Bureau and the American Civil Liberties Union have come out against a proposal by the Federal Trade Commission issued in August that seeks to expand its authority and end the use of behavioral advertising techniques on children.

The FTC's new proposals for the 11-year-old Children's Online Privacy and Protection Act explicitly prohibit ad networks and other online services providers from collecting personal information from children under the age of 13. COPPA broadly bans website operators from knowingly collecting personal information from children without parental consent. It also leaves the FTC to define what website operators are included and what is meant by "personal information."

As it stands, personal information included names, email addresses, street addresses and phone numbers. The FTC wants to broaden it to include any "unique identifier" that can link the activities of a child across more than one site, such as tracking cookies, device serial numbers and IP addresses in a static environment. This is what would keep advertisers from targeting children with their behavioral targeting techniques.

The IAB says the new definition is unnecessary and inconsistent with COPPA because persistent identifiers permit the delivery of content and advertising to a device, not to an identified individual. It also says the rules would potentially curtail children's access to online resources, and disrupt prevailing business models for data collection.

The Center for Digital Democracy, American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, Consumers Union, Public Citizen and 13 other advocacy groups called for COPPA rules to include "persistent identifiers" as personal information.

The IAB also argued against a proposed regulation by the FTC prohibiting ad networks from collecting information from children if they have "reason to know" they are operating on sites geared toward children, saying that the reason-to-know standard goes too far, given ad networks themselves don't target children and which requires actual knowledge rather than a reason to have it.

The organizations, including The Center for Digital Democracy, American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, Consumers Union, and Public Citizen, also argue in their written comments that the COPPA regulations "must be updated to include persistent identifiers" as personal information.

"When marketers use information collected about an individual to display an advertisement chosen to appeal to that person at that time, they are contacting a specific individual online, even if they do not know the person's full name," the groups argue.

The ACLU, which supports COPPA in its current form, says the FTC proposal goes too far and will put the government in the business of influencing online content.

"The FTC should leave what is not just good enough, but extremely good, alone," said the ACLU this week.

The change could prompt sites like YouTube to "make their content more mature (by deleting, say, the Sesame Street channel) to avoid attracting young children. This raises a whole spectrum of First Amendment concerns, including the fact that the government here would be indirectly influencing the content of online speech, and the danger that the expansion could actually reduce the amount of child-friendly online content," the ACLU said.

For more:
- see the Online Media Daily article

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