Differing views on COPPA

By Anne Collier

While the Federal Trade Commission is taking a fresh look at the Children’s Privacy Protection Act of 1998, the Senate Commerce Committee is taking a look of its own – in the form of a hearing today on children’s privacy and new technologies called by the Consumer Protection, Product Safety, and Insurance Subcommittee. Two witnesses at the hearing – American University professor Kathryn Montgomery and the Electronic Privacy Information Center’s Marc Rotenberg – called for COPPA’s expansion to include 13-to-17-year-olds, though neither referred to any impact this might have on teens’ free speech rights. Another key view, that of Berin Szoka of the Progress and Freedom Foundation in Washington, is that efforts to expand COPPA to include teens “put online privacy, child safety, free speech and anonymity on a collision course.” Such expansion, he said, would also “fail to make the online experience safer for adolescents because the reality is that the technology for reliable age verification simply doesn’t exist.” He was referring to the findings of the Internet Safety & Technical Task Force (here’s my blog post on it as a member of the task force). [And here is the FTC’s press release, linking to its written testimony at today’s hearing from Jessica Rich, deputy director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection.]

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