Remember COPPA, the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act of 1998? It was designed to protect the privacy of children under 13. According to Berin Szoka and Adam Thierer, who just completed a paper for policymakers on current efforts to change COPPA, “the law was intended primarily to ‘enhance parental involvement in a child’s online activities’ as a means of protecting the online privacy and safety of children.” What’s happening is, lawmakers in five or six states are considering extending COPPA’s requirement for obtaining verifiable consent from parents of under-13s to parents of all minors, as Thierer explained in an audio interview at CNET with ConnectSafely co-director Larry Magid. There are significant potential problems with that, Thierer suggests, not least of which is that a law intended to protect children’s privacy could, with such revision, actually put it at greater risk. Under-13s and people 13-17 are very different developmentally, so there is also the important question of whether it’s appropriate or even constitutionally sound to require verifiable parental consent from everyone up to the age of 18 to be allowed to register in any site with social-networking functionality? Do check out the CNET interview for more on this.