Proposal to bolster online privacy rules for children draws opposition from Apple, Facebook, Google, Microsoft and Twitter

“Washington is pushing Silicon Valley on children’s privacy, and Silicon Valley is pushing back,” Natasha Singer reports for The New York Times.

“Apple, Facebook, Google, Microsoft and Twitter have all objected to portions of a federal effort to strengthen online privacy protections for children,” Singer reports. “In addition, media giants like Viacom and Disney, cable operators, marketing associations, technology groups and a trade group representing toy makers are arguing that the Federal Trade Commission’s proposed rule changes seem so onerous that, rather than enhance online protections for children, they threaten to deter companies from offering children’s Web sites and services altogether.”

“‘If adopted, the effect of these new rules would be to slow the deployment of applications that provide tremendous benefits to children, and to slow the economic growth and job creation generated by the app economy,’ Catherine A. Novelli, vice president of worldwide government affairs at Apple, wrote in comments to the agency,” Singer reports. “‘What children post online or search as part of their homework should not haunt them as they apply to colleges or for jobs,’ Representative Edward J. Markey, Democrat of Massachusetts and co-chairman of the Bipartisan Congressional Privacy Caucus, said in a recent phone interview.”

Singer reports, “The F.T.C. wants to expand the types of data whose collection requires prior parental permission to include persistent ID systems, like unique device codes or customer code numbers stored in cookies, if those codes are used to track children online for advertising purposes… The social networks say they cannot keep track of the many sites that download their software plug-ins, and therefore cannot know whether they are inadvertently collecting data on children’s sites. Google and Apple made a similar argument, telling regulators that app platforms like Android and the iTunes store should not be held liable for the data collection practices of the children’s apps they sell.”

Read more in the full article here.

12 Comments

  1. I really hate when the government has to step in because people are stupid and don’t know what’s good for them.
    I am all in favor of protecting our children,but also I’m all against stupid and lazy parents that leave all their children care to the government.

    1. Most parents I know are intelligent, well-educated, engaged in the lives and parenting of their children and truly concerned. They have absolutely NO CLUE exactly what kind of dangers are out there to their children online, and, more importantly, what options are there today to protect their children. All they know is that computers are likely dangerous for children’s privacy, and they are extremely worried. This should not be a surprise to anyone, as it is practically impossible to figure out how to properly set up computers, operating systems, privacy settings and child filters on the myriad of systems, devices, applications, web sites and others.

      About the only thing that protects humans against consequences of someone’s greed is regulation. Regulation that requires seat belts in cars; regulation that requires exhaust emission standards; the kind that regulates the way food is manufactured, stored and transported to us (so that we don’t get treated to bacteria), and all other sorts of regulation that large business always loudly oppose, until the elected representatives manage to push through a measure that finally helps protect people from the dangerous side effects of these large businesses.

      In this case, it is impossible for an intelligent, engaged parent to figure out how to protect their child from the predators such as Facebook, Google and similar, not to mention ordinary human creeps in search of young and innocent.

      1. Ah, a wild topic shows up at MDN. Nice post Predrag, let me add a couple twist, and a monkey wrench or two.

        I basically agree that “it is practically impossible to figure out how to properly set up computers, operating systems, privacy settings and child filters on the myriad of systems, devices, applications, web sites and others.” and frankly that’s the wrong way to go about it. What should be set up properly is the web. A childrens’ world web (cww) should have been set up a very long time ago. That way there would be only one setting for parents to set on the computer, with options to browse the www, cww or both. Anything on the cww would be highly regulated.

        You talk about regulation and I like to think that licensing fits in all that. I was looking at licensing possibilities for parents, after all you need a license to do just about anything these days except be a parent. No one seems to be getting it, except for China. It’s absolutely horrible but it is a first step.

        Mind you it doesn’t matter anymore, the human species has the technology to limit it’s population growth but at this time it doesn’t have the inclination to do so. More than likely as a result there will be a serious culling one way or the other.

      2. The problem I see is that it is not clear for most parents to find the right settings.

        While reading this, a super idea popped up in my head.

        The iPad and similar have the settings page and all they would have to do is to make a new one that says “child protection” or similar. In that section is where they can have all the different settings easily available to change. The settings will be the same as in other parts of settings , but conveniently located for parents.

        For tech savy people it is easy to figure out where everything is. Streamlining for parents is a great & fast way to do what they have to do quickly.

        Ex of Settings for Parents
        -Blocking Sites (Better section this would be to block all sites and add the ones they are allowed to go to.)
        -Keywords to block
        -Time Settings
        -Block Apps (Same as blocking sites)
        etc.

        This setting page would be password protected by parents to stop kids from changing settings.

      3. The argument that such saved data could follow someone into adulthood is persuasive.

        Parents are clueless not only how to monitor and protect the kids online, but don’t care that they are regularly permitted online unsupervised are not parents I would describe as “intelligent, well-educated, engaged in the lives and parenting of their children and truly concerned” about their kids.

        Many parents still don’t allow their children to watch TV unless monitored or only for select shows. What’s the deal that parents won’t do the same for the children in front of the computer?

        We could also place “street guardians” every 50 feet on every street in the country to be sure parents don’t let their kids run into the street. We could put zoo monitors every 10 feet to be sure parents don’t sit their kids dangerously on animal enclosures.

        But we don’t. It really is up to the parent. If the government wants to help out, they should be running public service announcements regularly (for years) on TV and radio designed to TRAIN parents how to protect their kids and how to get and learn the technology to support them in doing so.

        1. You aren’t seriously comparing TV and the internet, are you?? We have known TV for our entire lives. The concept has remained the same, we all grew up with it, we know exactly how to deal with it because we saw our parents dealing with it (i.e. we were on the receiving end of their parenting decisions related to TV use). Internet, and the accompanying online social world, appeared when most of us were already well-formed adults, and it grew outside of our spheres of interest. Now that we have children, it is forcefully shoved into our sphere of interest, and we don’t really know anything about it (in relative terms, when compared to TV). And yes, I can definitely attest to the fact that there are many intelligent, well-educated, concerned and engaged parents who don’t know what possible dangers the online world poses to their children and don’t know where to begin. Sitting next to a child while (s)he is online is simply not an option, and the only people who suggest such a solution are the non-parents. Even if we disregard for the moment the process of developing autonomy, independence and responsibility for their own actions, the amount of time necessary to actually monitor a child while at the computer is simply prohibitive for ANY parent (working or not).

          1. My comparison with TV stands. Parents were and are able to direct their children not to watch TV just as they can for computers. They can position a computer to which a child has access where they can see it and/or simply see that it is turned off. If a child needs it for school, a parent can monitor that…just as they would (or should) a TV program assigned to watch by a teacher.

            “Intelligent, well-educated” clearly excludes tech intelligence and education.

            My point is that the parents need the education. And the government is able to spend their resources training them! There appear to be two options here. One is government intrusion and control. The other is an education campaign using all media and going on for some years to train otherwise “intelligent and well educated” parents, and those not so intelligent and well-educated, how and why to monitor their children’s use of technology. Two minute PSA’s twice a day and twice a night to begin (on TV, other media would be different), with rotating differing suggestions on how to do this would quickly lead to parents educated in the dangers of tech for their kids and how to safeguard them. Government regulation will not only be not fully effective in protecting children, but would leave parents in the state many are today: clueless.

            Of course, as an argument to support your position (so why do I make it!), parents today may have grown up with TV, but that has not meant that parents do what they should to protect their children from inappropriate programming. Familiarity with the technology does not imply appropriate monitoring.

            Nonetheless, government regulations will still not prevent improper access by children. They will simply figure out how to access what they want using their parents’ profile. But it may indeed lead to a loss of privacy and a potential database of activity that will follow them later.

            Whatever is done, is it too much to ask that a major education effort be undertaken directed at the parents?

          2. By the way, I was not suggesting that parents have to sit next to their children every minute in order to safeguard them. But they do have to find a way to monitor their activities. There are plenty of aps available to both restrict a child’s activities, and to monitor and record them. It again comes down to the training of parents. And they do have to show up to watch their kids…even if not every minute. In most cases, it is likely advisable that parents set time limits on computer use…just as they do for TV. But – good news! – there are aps for that, too!

            Train the parents! Kids can get around untrained parents no matter what the government does!

    1. Bot, the potential dangers are greater than television. I would hope you would be aware of that. But you are correct that children should not have uncontrolled access to everything that comes their way on cable/satellite TV.

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