Internet Privacy:Kid Data Battle Brews

When Congress passed the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act last October, sites that dealt with kids probably thought the battle over this issue was finished, except perhaps for the shouting. Word up, bro’. The shouting has started.

On Tuesday, the Federal Trade Commission released its first draft of the rules that will enforce the new law. It is, to say the least, a work in progress — which means that if you have an interest in this, you can, and should, get involved.

The key to the proposal is that permission from parents to collect data on youths under 13 must be verifiable. But the FTC isn’t certain how to do this. The proposal lays out four options: a paper form, a parent’s credit card number, a telephone call, or e-mail.

Perhaps most important, the commission is still inviting industry participation, through a proposed “safe harbor” in which you (or your trade group) can get approval for some other process that will do the government’s job for them.

Also, if you want to get involved in this, get to work now. The Commission plans to vote on final rules in June. And, while they want six copies of comments you send “snail mail” (to Secretary, Federal Trade Commission, Room H-159, 600 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20580), they’re also providing an e-mail address: [email protected].

There are some important lessons here for any e-commerce site. First, recognize that the political battle doesn’t end when Congress passes a law — in fact it just starts there.

Second, the Senate Judiciary Committee is currently looking at 50 different bills involving Internet privacy, and Senators told industry groups at a hearing Wednesday, that government action on general Internet privacy now appears inevitable. Expect today’s battles to be repeated.

What do you think? Let’s talk about it.

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