Lawmakers propose Internet privacy bill for youth

Lawmakers on Friday introduced a “do not track” Internet privacy bill aimed at limiting the collection of personal information about minors who go online from desktop computers or through smart phones.

Reps. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) and Joe Barton (R-Tex.) said their bill would update children’s online privacy laws to prohibit targeted marketing and would tighten restrictions on data collection on teens.

There has been increased concern that youth aren’t sufficiently protected online from predators and marketers who are able to access personal information such as addresses, full names and location information gathered through GPS services.

Consumer Reports said this week that it found 7.5 million Facebook users were under age 13, and five million of those users were 10 or younger. The FTC said this week that it reached a $3 million settlement with Disney company Playdom for collecting personal information about minors without parental consent. This year Apple changed its iTunes password policy after parents and lawmakers complained children were racking up big in-app purchases in animated games that were clearly aimed at attracting young users.

“Over the past several months, there has been a deluge of data leaks, breaches and other exposures of children’s personal information,” said Markey. “When it comes to kids and their use of the Internet, it is particularly important that stringent privacy protections are applied so that children do not have their online behavior tracked or their personal information collected or disclosed.

Specifically, the bill:

* Requires companies to obtain parental consent for collection of children’s personal information.

* Prohibits online companies from using personal information of children and teens for targeted marketing purposes.

* Limits collections of geolocation information of children and teens.

* Creates an “eraser button” on personal information available on the Web.

According to the Pew Research Center’s 5 Internet and American Life Project, 31 percent of 12-year-olds in the United States were using social networking sites in 2006, with that figure growing to 38 percent by mid-2009.

Related Stories:

With quick click, teens lose privacy on Internet

White House, FTC support online privacy law

Google settles online privacy breach

Cecilia Kang is a staff writer covering the business of media and entertainment.
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