Online Privacy and Data: What Parents Need to Know

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There are many components within technology – and two major ones that both governments and companies struggle with is online privacy and data.

As a parent, it is important to me that the companies my kids interact with are following online privacy guidelines. This also applies to non-educational technology and data.

Think about the last time your child used an app or you used your smartphone to find a local store. Technology is everywhere.

I will admit that when it comes to online privacy and data issues my eyes glaze over. Naively, I assume that companies are looking out for either my interests or for my child’s interests and I know that’s not the case. So here’s the quick and dirty low down on online privacy, data and what you need to beware of.

1. COPPA – COPPA stands for Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act and came into law in the year 2000. COPPA is managed by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).The role of COPPA is to protect kids online privacy. Specifically, it is supposed to…

  • Require parental consent for the collection or use of any personal information of young website users.
  • Set guidelines for a privacy policy, including the requirement that the policy itself be posted anywhere data is collected.
  • Ask when and how to seek verifiable consent from a parent or guardian.
  • Detail what responsibilities the operator of a Web site legally holds with regards to children’s privacy and safety online, including restrictions on the types and methods of marketing targeting those under 13.

 

I got the above information from Margaret Rouse article called COPPA. With all the legal jargon, I needed someone to distill it for me.

Since COPPA came out and the online world changed dramatically with FaceBook and Twitter, the act was updated. New rules/legislation came out in December 2012 and will come into effect July 1, 2013.

As a techie parent, I find it alarming when publications such as Forbes publish articles such as the FTC New Kid Privacy Rules COPPA are a big mess. The article points out flaws in the legislation and gives examples of how to get around the legislation. Yeah!

At this point, it will probably take some time to figure out how companies will react to COPPA so make sure you take time to read the company’s online privacy policy for any kid’s product. It doesn’t matter if it’s an app or an online program, make sure you understand what they are doing.

2. FTC Mobile Privacy Report – For those of you who don’t know mobile services are booming, with 217 million smartphones being purchased in the 4th quarter of 2012, which is HUGE! Most of the moms I know have a smartphone and some people consider it their 3rd or 4th baby. The concern with mobile devices is the data because it is directly connected to you. There have to be guidelines for organizations to follow around data.

The FTC recently came out with a report called the FTC Mobile Privacy Report. Here are my thoughts on the report. It is a well-intentioned, well-documented and well-thought through report as I would expect from the FTC. The challenge will be to have everyone get on board, that’s the tough part.

After reading the report, I would encourage every parent, who has a smartphone to ask questions about their personal data, specifically what is being collected and where it is going – Ask Apple or Google or the app developer. While I appreciate people rely on their smartphones, we need to be more diligent.

The FTC report is a fantastic acknowledgement of the issue but consumers need to understand the implications and how it impacts them. It can’t be left up to organizations – governments, organizations and consumers need to work together. 

So what does it really mean for parents? Don’t assume. More than ever we need to be proactive consumers. Would love to know your thoughts @weebootMom or email me at weeboot@gmail.com

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