The FTC is Worried about Companies Stalking Your Kids Online

Oct 24, 2012

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The FTC is proposing changes to the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act (1998) to catch up with the times. The act attempts to prevent websites from asking children under thirteen to provide personal information such as physical addresses and birth dates.

Currently, it is common practice, and legal, for web sites to track online activities of users regardless of age, and use the information they gather to market directly to those users. But it becomes alarming when parents realize the information gathered could be used to identify individual children.

Many websites with kids as their target audience utilize online tracking, including nick.com and disney.com. Some websites, like happymeal.com, encourage children to upload photos of themselves to be put in photos with Ronald McDonald. But these photos were stored in publicly available directories. McDonald's has since blocked access after being made aware of the issue.

Webkinz, another popular children's site, openly states in its policies that advertising partners may target their web page visitors with ads based on data collected.

The FTC's changes would require parents to give permission for most online activities for kids, including uploading photos. Websites would also have to obtain parental permission before tracking children on the web for advertising purposes as well.

Regardless of whether these new changes are implemented, parents should be aware of the dangers of sharing too much personal information on the web. Identity theft is on the rise, and putting details such as your birth date, email address, and physical address only give thieves and predators a head start.

Parents should talk to their children about what's appropriate to share online, and monitor their children's online activities.

I work for Net Nanny. The opinions expressed here are my own.

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