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FTC Regulates Kids' Privacy Online 110

IQ was first to write "The Children's Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) was issued today by the FTC. It kicks in April 2000. The goal is to protect the privacy of the children by requiring "verifiable parental consent". Check out the release text. "

If you have the time you might also want to read the actual rule and public comments. Most online news services have covered it; Wired has a lengthy analysis sourced to an anonymous Republican staffer, but News.com has one without the Republican political spin. Fundamentally, the act regulates those commercial websites that target themselves to children (12 and under) and collect personal information about them - if you aren't commercial, or don't target yourself to children (even if you collect personal information from people) or just don't collect personal data from the kids, you aren't affected. Nevertheless, it is a significant step in privacy regulation - businesses must contact parents before collecting such information from an individual that they have actual knowledge is a child (for instance, by asking their age), but have no duty to ask the age of the general population. Thus most websites, even commercial ones that collect personal information, will have no change in day-to-day operations - they target themselves to a general audience, don't care about their visitors' ages, and need not take any steps under the new regulations.

Sites which do target kids for marketing will have to get parental permission before doing so. Parents also must be offered the option to prevent their kids' information from being shared with third-parties - to prevent the sale of that data, in other words. Parents can also opt-out entirely on behalf of their children and the site must honor their request. In school situations, teachers can give the requisite permission for their students so school activities won't be hampered.

The law and rule are likely to put a significant damper on online marketing to kids aged 12 and under. Specialized kids' sites will have to get parental permission to collect the data that is their primary reason for existence, and presumably many parents will prevent these sites from selling it. How well will they be enforced? That's uncertain. According to EPIC, the FTC has received hundreds of privacy-related complaints and has investigated only three.

"Self-regulation" of privacy concerns is an obvious failure. TrustE, the leading light of the businesses trying to prevent consumer protection on the internet, spends more time covering up privacy breaches by its members than investigating complaints... Will targeted government intervention have any better effect?

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FTC Regulates Kids' Privacy Online

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  • The deal is, that this wasnt needed this way. The way this thing reads, they WANT kids online and giving information out about who they are, where they are, parent's names, and credit card numbers. Gee, could we have used regular old "Parental Guidance"? Not only that, but schools can take the place of the parent?! What kind of BS is that? Now you can have some Flaming transvestite Hitler with anagenda concenting for a kid to be doing all kinds of crazy things they couldn't get to before! -And before you say that wouldn't happen, I know of a teacher like that in California. Somebody should speak up about this.
  • How does this restrict a company from having an EULA like MS in that you cannot view this webpage unless you allow us to collect information on you. Like how it's in violation to run Windows if you do not agree to hold MS responisable for crashes etc.

    All spelling mistakes are mine and mine alone.
  • The whole Self-regulation concept failed miserably a long time ago. I wonder if I can request that the law also requires them to contact my parents before selling my personal info, even if I am 31! Either that, or make it a law that I get a cut of any money made from selling my personal info. Then I would not have a problem with it. Them damn leaches make millions off selling my info, yet I get nothing in return. I supposed there's a small worth to recycling the junkmail sent to me, but that just don't cut it! I am way sick of junk mail!
  • by lordsutch ( 14777 ) <chris@lordsutch.com> on Friday October 22, 1999 @09:39AM (#1593926) Homepage
    The FTC didn't issue the act; it simply wrote regulations that Congress authorized it to write under the act.

    (Which explains why the FTC didn't do anything about the previous complaints: because it didn't have the statutory authority to do so. Without the statutory authority, it's illegal for the FTC to do anything [not that they wouldn't, of course, but the bureaucracy's doing something illegal is a little harder than doing something with Congress's blessing].)
  • >Effective April 2000 Certain Web Sites Must
    >Obtain Parental Consent before Collecting
    >Personal Information from Children

    Clearly this is an April fool joke. Right?

    Seriously, though. If web sites have to have parental concent for kids under 13, doesn't that mean that they have to validate everyone's age? Or is this gonna be like at the movies where if you don't ask for a student ticket you don't get carded? (That works some places, kids. Go try it :-)

  • by Signal 11 ( 7608 ) on Friday October 22, 1999 @09:43AM (#1593928)
    Yeah, verifiable... Like "Click here only if you've gotten your parent's permission to see hot sexxxy babed"?

    There is no foolproof system to ensure that you are who you say you are online - as the old saying goes "on the net, nobody knows you're a dog".. or for that matter a cybernetic being running a news for nerds site (how else does he put in 20 hours a day?!)...


  • by else...if ( 100943 ) on Friday October 22, 1999 @09:45AM (#1593930)
    Maybe I'm missing something, but the FTC seems to be thinking it terms of selling a child's address along with marketing data, rather than just reporting demographics to marketers. I don't think prevening demographics collection was the intent of the FTC. Regardless, I'm still opposed to this. Although it's not as bad as most examples, it still takes responsibility over children away from their parents and gives it to the rest of the world. If a parent gives their child unsupervised access to the internet then they should trust their child enough to either make those judgements on their own or ask a parent's permission on their own ("this is important Timmy. Never give anyone on the internet your address or phone number with out Mommy's permission").
  • by Masem ( 1171 ) on Friday October 22, 1999 @09:47AM (#1593931)
    Ok, I know that line is cliche, but there is something to be said about obtaining without the consent of the parent personal info about a child, much less being able to sell that info across a number of other companies. There are pedophiles on the net and in real life. There are people that have very low morals that will stalk children and harm/kill them because they get a thrill from being able to take advantage of a situation where they control everything. It is perverted, which is why pedophiles are generally considered as bad as murderers.

    Of course, there's a big difference between someone that wants to kidnap children, and a web site aimed at kids. But there's still the same possibility that things could happen. Example: If a web site aimed at kids asks an 'innocent' question such as "Do you go home to an empty house after school?" and the answers were matched up with the address and name, that could lead to robbery and maybe kidnapping if the right person got a hold of the info. There's also the idea that many kids might inadvertantly answer "yes" to something that they should say no to , which can open a number of doors either being advertizing or personal or property threat, which might have been stated in a way most children would not understand.

    This bill basically seems like a natural extention of what most media does with stories that revovle around children: the names are protected to prevent further harm.

  • I agree. If I were in business, I'd love to have a nice database full of parent's names, associated with their kids. Then I could send the parents a letter saying something like "Dear Mr. Jones, We all want the best for our children, and I'm sure that you want the best for little William You must be worried about him going into the 4th grade next year, and that's why you should buy him Mace for Kiddies, otherwise known as Bully B Gone (TM)...

    So, the kid rats out the parents, and the parents get a load of customized spam.

  • The statute and rule apply to commercial Web sites and online services directed to, or that knowingly collect information from, children under 13. To inform parents of their information practices, these sites will be required to provide notice on the site and to parents about their policies with respect to the collection, use and disclosure of children's personal information. With certain statutory exceptions, sites will also have to obtain "verifiable parental consent" before collecting, using or disclosing personal information from children. The rule will become effective on April 21, 2000, giving Web sites six months to come into compliance with the rule's requirements.

    So, is this to mean that the kiddies will have to get their parent's permission to sign up with Slashdot? Does anyone have the text of the actual act, and can comment on WHAT has to be collected to count? Do cookies count? Username/password registration? What?

    Sigh, more "protect the kiddies" legislation. Would someone please run for office on the "please don't protect me" agenda?
  • by Fastolfe ( 1470 ) on Friday October 22, 1999 @09:50AM (#1593934)
    No offense, but if your schools are actually hiring people like this, it's time you wrote a letter to the school board. If nothing else, take your child to a private school or just enroll him/her in another school altogether. Public schools are funded with your tax dollars. You can bet you have a say in how they're run.

    In any case, your "somebody should speak up about this" comment seems better directed towards yourself than to any of us. They held quite a lengthy public comment period where you were more than welcome to voice your opinion.

    Funny how people always have things to say after the fact, but nobody is willing to give a rat's ass about stuff like this while it's in the planning stages (when it counts). THIS is what's wrong with our government today, not "idiot" or "evil" politicians.
  • The idea is that non-children are smart enough to read (or read into) a site's privacy policy and know when their information might be sold for marketing, thus allowing us to make these decisions for ourselves.

    No offense, but we don't need laws protecting adults from things they should see coming. You do realize what those car givaways in malls are funded with, yes?
  • The thing is: 1. I have no kids and 2. I am in a different area. So, that kind of makes me useless in that dept. In response to people voicing the opinion after the fact, if you look at any of my other posts, my opinions are generally fact. The problem is, they are in advance of other people's realization of what's really going on, and whatever I bring to the table is thrown out with the trash. (look at my moderation scores). After the event occurs, then somebody says.."oh, why didn't somebody say something?"...how much can a person do? Ignorance, selfishness and tunnel vision abounds.
  • by scottsevertson ( 25582 ) on Friday October 22, 1999 @09:57AM (#1593937) Homepage
    I'm working on a kid's website for a client, and the FTC regulations aren't making my work any easier.

    The client knew that these regulations have been coming for a while, so we have been actually dealing with these issues for the past two months.

    Implementing the parental consent process has actually been quite easy. The hard part is trying to figure out out how to spin things so that the parents want to sign the consent form! Granted, it's kind of hard to put a spin on using kids for market research data.

    The strategy we ended up using was the same concept drug sellers use - give the kids a free hit or two on the web site, but to keep using it, they have to register. Hopefully by then, they are addicted.

    I'm not sure if I morally agree with the purpose of the web site (no it's not evil or anything, but I don't like tricking kids/parents into revealing their shopping habbits online), but it pays pretty well!

    Scott Severtson
    Applications Developer
  • I want my privacy protected too .... how come only kids under 13 have to give permision first .... I want that right too .....
  • Well, while I won't go so far as to defend the FTC and FCC -- everyone is entitled to their own opinions about the government -- I think it's worth pointing out that FCC commissioners go through an approval process by the legislature. (I can't say from my own knowledge that the FTC works exactly the same, but the head of the FTC must be approved). So there, representatives elected directly by the people no more than 6 years ago (the length of a Senate term) are approving each appointment.

    Further, as a general rule, these commissions can only make rules for which they have the authority to do so. The FCC can't suddenly decide that it wants to regulate the price of hay, for example, nor can it (currently) mandate less comedy and more news on TV. It doesn't have the statutory authority to do so. While that's not to say that bureaucracies never overstep their bounds, the judicial branch (see? checks and balances, just like we learned in school!) has the power to strike down regulations for which a commission has no power to create.

    IOW, according to the law and even the Constitution, everything matches the original theory. Legislative branch makes the laws, executive branch implements them, judicial branch interprets them.

    Of course, IANAL.
  • Of course, there's a big difference between someone that wants to kidnap children, and a web site aimed at kids. But there's still the same possibility that things could happen.

    So, there's a big difference, but "things could happen"? Things could happen when a kid walks down the street. Let's require people to be pulled over, and their cars searched every time they drive through a school-zone too!

    If a web site aimed at kids asks an 'innocent' question such as "Do you go home to an empty house after school?" [...] that could lead to robbery and maybe kidnapping if the right person got a hold of the info.

    Oh, yeah, of course! So, the obvious solution is to make collecting the information illegal. Gee, if a site is collecting this sort of information in order to break into someone's home and steal their stuff and maybe kids, making an HTML form illegal will certainly be a major deterant....

    On the other hand, if you simply monitor the Web (not packet snooping, just visiting the same sites that the kids do) for such suspicious activity as people asking kids if they go home alone, maybe you'd STOP these crimes. Actually, this law is unenforcable, since anyone who wants this sort of information can get it in subtler ways (e.g. a site for "Kids who are home alone", which does not require any information be given, but has a chat forum in which you can then ASK questions, which is still not illegal).

    I get so sick of "protect the kiddies" as a battle cry for minimal-effort regulation that actually does more to hurt kids and the Net than help....
  • The statute and rule apply to commercial Web sites and online services directed to, or that knowingly collect information from, children under 13.

    Sounds like cookies to me.

    If guardian allows child to store cookies from certain "parent approved" shopping site, is it then illegal for another "unapproved" site to look at these cookies?
  • The FTC is an executive body. Congress passed legislation required them to come up with these rules.

    Contrary to what you seem to think, appointed positions are in fact a very necessary part of our government. The people we elect make these appointments. If you don't like the appointments, elect somebody else to make them next time. The reason we don't elect every major official position in our government is precisely the reason people seem to loathe "politicians" nowadays: they seem to be more concerned with the upcoming elections than they are about the job they're supposed to be doing.

    People appointed to these positions have no elections to worry about, only the job they're doing, so they have more of a reason to do it well.
  • Why do we always feel like the kids in our society need so much protection all the time. Ever notice that the only people that can open child proof locks are kids? The same thing applies here, while grandpa can't figure out how to open his email, the 9 year old grand child will explain to him how to get around child-protection on some restricted site. Any kid who wants to badly enough will have no trouble convincing the site that they are more then 12 years old.
  • by KingJawa ( 65904 ) on Friday October 22, 1999 @10:07AM (#1593944) Homepage
    Disney, Nickelodean, they have money, employees, etc that will allow the to comply with this act. It is the small guy who loses by government intervention such as this. Imagine a person trying to market a product made for ADD elementry school children--any information he collects via the Internet is now subject to more paperwork than it is worth to him.

    That same principle applies to those newcomers who would wish to provide games and entertainment for 11 year olds. Any information they gather would be subject to miles of red tape, and a small company simply cannot afford to send time dealing with that.
  • You already have it. This is supposed to prevent children (who, under the law, are not considered capable of making binding decisions) from revealing information that their parents feel they should not. If you are 18 or older, you are presumed capable of making that decision. Then again, that could be a flawed assumption as well.
  • This was NOT a random regulation implemented by the government. This is a reasonable response to the way that corporations have acted.

    Let's say I run a toy company, and so I need demographic information for children. Now, let's say that, in order to get the information, I got to a playground and start asking kids their names, their address, and all other kinds of personal information. In order to get kids to give me this info, I gave them candy. How long do you think it would be before somebody's creep-dar went off, and someone called the police (or just kicked my...)? Even if I explained my legitimate reason for wanting this info, I doubt I would be allowed to continue.

    What many companies did was equivalent to this, except they used the web. They put forms on web sites geared towards kids, and they often gave kids incentive for providing info. The only real difference is that kid's web activity isn't so closely supervised that a parent would notice a kid filling out a form. Few parents would not notice a stranger talking to their child at a park.

    This is, in my opinion, good legislation. It doesn't prevent companies from doing anything, it just makes them responsible for their actions, and it prevents them from using kids' trusting nature to violate the kids' (and their families) privacy.

  • by Enoch Root ( 57473 ) on Friday October 22, 1999 @10:12AM (#1593947)
    Am I against censorship? Yes. Am I against protecting children? No. Is that contradictory? I don't think so.

    I can already hear people screaming over this, because it sounds as if the first waves of profound censorship is making its way unto the Net. Actually, I think it's quite different. This is not about censoring Internet content, it's about giving the parents the legal means to censor the Internet themselves.

    As such, it's a little like NetNanny. It means parents have some form of control over what their children do. Well, that works wonderfully well for me. Think of the Internet as a giant video rental store. The idea is not to censor some movies, but to make it clear to everyone what each section contains.

    And so, we have the little doors leading to the pr0n section. That's cool by me. As a matter of fact, if parents feel they're controlling what their children will see on the Internet, they might losen up and stop calling the Internet a den of depravation.

    Protect your children the way you see fit, I don't care. Just don't try to protect me.

    Caveat: unfortunately, this system sounds as if it's impossible to implement. How do you tell if a person is below 18 from an anonymous email? I've seen 30-odd year-old people spell like crap, so that's not even a consideration. And heck, everyone, adult or children, visits a children site at some point. (Best example: I have my own page on the LegoManiacs webpage.) So controlling everyone won't work either.

    So, it just makes it mandatory to include some sort of silly button saying, 'I am over 18'. Yeah, porn sites have been doing that for ages.

    "There is no surer way to ruin a good discussion than to contaminate it with the facts."

  • Like it or not, parents have become very apathetic with children these days. This is why we have l33t packet kiddies on IRC and why we have the bulk of our "web site defacements" that we do. If parents really gave a rats ass what their kids were doing online, your suggestion would work.

    Now, I don't disagree with you that this is the way things SHOULD work, with parents being able to supervise and guide their child in their online activities, the real world just doesn't work this way.

    Instead, parents would rather whine loudly to the government until said government passes legislation that lets the parents take yet another step away from parenting their children.

    Quite sad, yes?

    Personally, I would much rather the government pass a law making parents increasingly liable for their child's behavior and activities online. If their child bids in an eBay auction, the parents should be liable for the costs. If their child breaks a law by way of insufficient parental supervision, the parents should be considered negligent and tried accordingly.

    OK I think I'm starting to rant a little bit, but really this is just another symptom of the problem, and instead of solving it, the government is just patching up the effects, allowing it to grow worse as a result.
  • How does this restrict a company from having an EULA like MS in that you cannot view this webpage unless you allow us to collect information on you.

    The article includes this statement:

    The notice also must state that the operator is prohibited from conditioning a child's participation in an activity on the child's disclosing more personal information than is reasonably necessary.

    For a piece of legislation that was actually produced by a US government agency, this is actually extremely well-thought-out and realistic. I'm quite impressed.

  • I don't understand why the FTC needs to enforce this control. Last time I checked, getting internet access is at least $10/mo + $300 for a computer-- that's just bare bones, dirt cheap system with a 14.4kb bottle neck for an internet connection. Most kids don't have this much money. (I'm refering to 12 year olds, not the 17 year old "kids" who already know what naked women look like and drink more than their parents.)

    Parents, if you don't want your kinds to look at pr0n, monitor their computer use. It's still YOUR computer, not theirs. If they know more about it than you, it's your responsibility to learn about the computer and wrest control back. Remember, understanding is the key to true power, whether its understanding of people or understanding of computers.

  • But- You make a logical point with absolutely no foundation. The foundation is morality, and protection as legislated by a parent. Just because there is a lack of parental discretion doesnt mean it is ANYBODY'S responsibility to take over. I completely and wholeheartedly disapprove of that concept at all.
  • But I have no say on what information that's collected about my page viewing habbits, or what I buy, or who passes around my email address .... and who it's sent to - people are SELLING information about ME and making a profit off of it - I want a say in what happens to it ..... and when it's sold I WANT A CUT!
  • Presumably they're not restricting access to the site itself, only to information gathering mechanisms. If a kid desperately wants to give a web site his e-mail address or phone number, going to the extents you suggest, there's not much that can be done about it. The site operator made an honest attempt to verify the child's age and/or get parental permission. It's not his fault that the kid makes an enormous (and/or clever) effort to side-step that.

    IMO, if parents want the ability to supervise this sort of thing, it's time they started supervising instead of making our government pass legislation that means they don't have to.
  • There is no section of the US constitution that gives congress the ability to deligate law making. Congress may pass laws, congress may not create another body with the power to pass laws.

    If congress had to actually look at every rule/regulation and argue about it etc... we'd have less laws/regulations --- that would be a Good Thing(tm).

  • by jd ( 1658 ) <imipak AT yahoo DOT com> on Friday October 22, 1999 @10:19AM (#1593955) Homepage Journal
    The implementation is buggier than Windows 2000. Privacy SHOULD be a right, not a concession. Not just to kids, but every single person.

    Yes, kids don't necessarily have the skills to avoid marketing traps, but neither do a lot of adults. Why do you think people bother advertising? It's cos they know 99.999% of the population thinks with it's wallet half the time. (The other half doesn't involve the brain, either.)

    The legislation is clearly drawn up by someone who has some excellent thoughts and ideas, but is clueless as to how to implement them. The same has been true of most Internet regulation. Some sound ideas, mixed with flawed logic, shoddy reasoning and liquid lunches, half-baked, and left to sit in a mildew-infested cupboard.

    IMHO, this is why this kind of regulation should be done IN CO-OPERATION with ISP's and computer specialists. THEY are the ones who know what would work and what wouldn't, and what would be acceptable to the population as a whole.

    Legislation by force of arms achieves nothing, least of all it's intended goal, and gets everyone so hostile to the idea, there isn't a hope of anything sensible being implemented for years to come.

    Which is more important? The egos of the legislators (in Congress, or wherever), or getting effective, workable, useful legislation where it's NEEDED, in the WAY that it's NEEDED, to achieve the things that are NEEDED?

  • Cookies are only sent to the site that created them. It's certainly possible for a "generic" web server to host multiple children-oriented "sites", and for one of those sites to create a cookie that would be readable to the other sites hosted on that server, but that's less of a feature and more of a stupid design than anything else, as cookies can even be further limited in scope to a particular path on a given server.
  • Read the privacy policies on the sites you do business with, and if it's clear that the site intends to sell your information, don't do business with them. Send them an e-mail address stating that.
  • I don't think that they are necessary - in fact in the most of the rest of the western world such appointments are relatively rare - the whole idea of cabinet ministers ('Secretary's in the US) , or civil servants being appointed by the president from his friends for purely political reasons is considered rather corrupt - I know the Secretary of State is well respected world-wide - but she still doesn't represent the US in the way an elected official like for example British Home Sec. does

    This is because many countries elect their cabinet ministers.

  • So, is this to mean that the kiddies will have to get their parent's permission to sign up with Slashdot?

    Sigh.... No, it does not. Didn't you read the text that michael wrote up at the top?

    if you aren't commercial, or don't target yourself to children (even if you collect personal information from people) or just don't collect personal data from the kids, you aren't affected.

    So Slashdot is out of the picture for two different reasons -- they're not commercial, and they don't target children.

    People, please, read the article before asking questions about it!

    Does anyone have the text of the actual act,

    The link that michael provided ends with .pdf so I guess the strict answer is, no, nobody has the text. It's only available in the accursed PDF format (may it rot in hell).

  • True. But Congress can deligate the making of some regulations. And from time to time a court will go to far. After all it would be silly if congress had to act every time the FDA wanted to OK a new drug.

    What Congress did was pass a bill that said the FTC shall make a rule to regulate "X". (It was probably a lot more specific). The courts have said that this is perfectly fine.
  • If I understand your point, it's that the idea of parents being the legal protectors of their children is unfounded?

    Well, I guess that's debatable. I certainly don't agree that children should be sheltered from the world, but that's not something you can enforce legally; it's something you should teach to stupid parents who blame the Internet/television/etc. for their child's violent ways or what have you.

    I think that this point doesn't come into play, however. My point is, if parents feel they have the legal means to protect their children, they'll leave censorship alone.

    "There is no surer way to ruin a good discussion than to contaminate it with the facts."

  • but wait - in a world where I get a laptop catalog in the mail from Dell addressed to me personally from just visiting their web site and looking at laptops (not giving away my name or address or anything obvious) - wont I be giving away something by just looking at their privacy page - "oooh interested customer ... lets figure out who they are and send them some spam ...".

    I want an explicit privacy right - not just vague promises that are not enforceable

  • Cookies just identify a browser, not an individual, so can't possibly "identify" someone under the age of 13.

    Username/password is slightly trickier, but if you don't ask the age (and therefore don't -knowingly- get that info from anyone of a particular age) that probably doesn't count either. (It's also questionable as to whether a username/password, which is NEITHER something inherent NOR factual about the individual, would qualify anyway.)

    Personal details (eg: age, address, height, weight, eye colour, school, favourite food, pets, verified digital certificate) are what's addressed in this act, AFAICT.

    Unless the Slash code has been changed significantly, since I signed up, kids won't need parental permission to sign up here, or on most other web boards.

    Privacy Legislation is A GOOD THING, if done right. It's only harmful if it's messed up, which (sadly) the US Govt has a habit of doing. They'd be much better off just photocopying the UK's Data Protection Act and applying it in the US. It would do the job -much- better, and legislate privacy for all people, not just a subset.

  • One particular appointment I wholeheartedly support is the lifetime appointment for superior court judge. With positions like this, it's nice to know that the judges don't have an ulterior motive (re-election or appeasing a new elected official to keep their appointment) when they issue their decisions.

    Would you have these people elected as well?
  • someone messed with me. That was my post, but didn't choose anon.
  • nah - the election of judges is another thing that seems to mostly happen in the US.

    (BTW: don't take my comments here as necessarily a criticism - I'm more trying to point out cultural differences and how things seem different from other perspectives - I figure each country comes to it's own compromises on these things - and a long running stable democray's probably found a good compromise that works for them)

  • No, you've got it backwards. This regulation allows parents to take responsibility for their kids.

    Think about it-- The reason we have laws about parental consent isn't because parents are too lazy to watch their kids. It's because you shouldn't have to stand next to your kid every waking moment to keep people from taking advantage of your kid.

    A marketing organization is collectively much craftier than an 11 year old, or even most parents for that matter. Regulations help keep them in check.

    As for your example, "this is important Timmy. Never give anyone on the internet your address or phone number with out Mommy's permission," well maybe it will work with some kids and maybe it won't. Is it really ok to punish the Timmy who forgets to ask Mommy or are too excited because the website is promising them Really Cool Games?

    If it takes a village to raise a child, then the village should pitch in once in a while.

  • by Hobbex ( 41473 ) on Friday October 22, 1999 @10:40AM (#1593969)
    Your post is interesting, but I really think you could get the point across just as well without using that whole bold thing.

    Many of us actually find it quite annoying, and will skip posts like this. Maybe you have been designing sites for semi-literate children to long.

    As to your dilema. What a joke. If you and your employers had any ethics you would not be collecting the data in the first place. If you decide to be evil, don't go around lamenting about it.

    /. is like a steer's horns, a point here, a point there and a lot of bull in between.
  • how about educate the children so they can save themselves?

    If anybody in washington really cared about kids they would work on reducing the age of majority, so that younger people could have a say in a lot of important areas.

    Example: taxation: one of the founding reasons of the US was to get away from taxation without adequate representation, but its generally easy to get a job at 16 (flipping burgers if nothing else) and you get taxed on any earnings you make, but you have no say in how the taxes get spent. If you could vote, you would at least in theory have some say in where the taxes go.

  • Sorry, Ted, I can't agree with you. The internet is a good thing, on the whole, and parents who prevents their children from accessing it, if the parents can provide that access, are denying their children something which is quickly becoming essential to education. ('course, when I was a kid and I had to research something, we used these old-fashioned book-type things)

    I do think that parents need to monitor their children's viewing/surfing/reading/listening habits, and that parents should then interfere when those habits are in conflict with their family's beliefs/practices. Getting gov't involved in censorship like that is pointless. However, we do have access control laws, for better or for worse. Some call it censorship, some don't.

    This law is not about preventing children from accessing X. This law is a response to those who would take advantage of children directly. For example, a law which prevented a person from having explicit material which is accessible to children could be called a censorship law, while a law preventing people from exposing themselves to children is certainly NOT a censorship law.

  • Huh? How can Dell mail you a catalog unless you've given them your address? It's possible that you gave your address to some other computer-related site (or a real live business) that in turn solid it to Dell, but it's presently not possible for a web site to retrieve this kind of information from you merely by visiting their privacy page.

    You DO have a right to privacy. DON'T GIVE YOUR PRIVATE INFORMATION OUT. The moment you give it to somebody else, they can do whatever the hell they want with it. The only guarantee you have otherwise is in their posted privacy policies. If you do business with a company that has no privacy policy, write them. When you freely give information to somebody else, they are under no obligation to treat it confidentially unless they explicitely say so on their site.

    You still have a right to your own privacy, but you simply waive that right by posting your private information on a web site.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    What is the position on use of these sites by nonhuman entities such as web robots? After all, most web robots are under 13 (the Internet being a considerably smaller place back in 1986), but they don't usually have a parent or guardian. Perhaps the robot would have to get permission from its author to give out personal information.
  • Having only quickly scanned the top 25 pages or so of the PDF before getting bored (and having to get back to real work), it appears that Slashdot escapes because it's not directed at children (script kiddies aside I guess).

    I didn't see (or maybe I didn't get to) the part that explains how one determines whether or not a site is "commercial", however, I'd expect that one need only look at Andover's business plan (let alone the banner ads) to answer this one.
  • It would certainly be damn handy, wouldn't it?

    In fact, I am considering starting my own marketing company which will specifically target the PARENTS of these kids. Screw the kids, they don't have any cash to spend anyway.


  • How do you get around that you're still (I guess) tracking the kids' behavior in a way, even though you haven't gathered anything that could really be thought of as personal, 'cause you're keeping track of them enough to stop giving them "free hits"? Wouldn't this violate the letter of the law (if not the spirit)?
  • Of course they can figure it out - lots of ways - for example - they can take my IP address, do a reverse lookup on it, discover my domain name - look at the whois record from the internic - and send mail to the administrator (me - I get regular paper spam from the various domain names I administer).

    Much more likely though, you're right, the correlated something from my visit - maybe a cookie someone else left in my browser, or my IP address - with some other place where I did reveal my identity - chances are they sold it for money to Dell - and as I said I WANT MY CUT

  • At sixteen, you're still a minor, and everything you make is technically the property of your parents. Your parents have the "say" (thus the right to vote), not you. If you'd like a say in where the taxes go, take it up with your parents.
  • by MillMan ( 85400 ) on Friday October 22, 1999 @10:51AM (#1593980)
    Usually I'm against anything the government does to "regulate" content of any medium, but this doesn't look like a content filter. However the article doesn't really state exactly what they are targeting...if the site requires you to enter demographic info before you can look at the site, then it does amount to content filtering. Personally I wouldn't want to look at any page that requires a lot of personal / demographic information up front, however.

    But lets face it, most kids aren't smart enough to know any better until they reach a certain age. If I had kids I wouldn't want them giving away our address, email addresses, household income, etc. This age is different for everyone, which makes it important for parents to have the FINAL word on what their kids can or can't see, or what information to give out as is the case here. If a site falls into the category outlined in this bill, it could prompt the kid to have his parents enter a password, or some similar security measure. Hopefully parents would be able to disable a security measure like this, if they don't want to deal with it every 5 minutes and/or when the kid reaches an age where the parents think the kid is ready to decide for him/herself.

    Somehow I doubt the gov't will allow this level of personal control, however. This bill is also vague, as are most bills related to technology, particularly relating to the internet. Thus if they try to sue a company over this, the bill probably won't stand up very well in court. It's too vague as to what specifically requires controls and how to go about implementing them, and what passes as a decent implementation.
  • "Seriously, though. If web sites have to have parental concent for kids under 13, doesn't that mean that they have to validate everyone's age?"

    No. The regulation specifically says that this parental consent is only necessary if the site is already requiring people to state their age and if the age of the person in question is 12 or under.


  • so two ppl get combined into one 'say'? (or 3 into 2 or whatever depending on family structure)

    Isn't that similar to having slaves and having the plantation owner have the only 'say'?

    Or what about in a marrige giving the man the only 'say'? (assuming traditional marrige)

    Are children not people?
    It seems that for all intents and purposes they are not considered to be, just as slaves and women previously weren't considered to be.

  • It's not just my name and address - that was a particularly annoying example.

    If I visit Ford's web site and Ford banner ads follow me all over the web for the next week or two (purely an example, unlike the Dell thing, this hasn't actually happened to me) - then again someone's trafficing in my identity and information about my web usage - they may not know exactly who I am - but it doesn't matter they are still passing information around about me, and money is probably changing hands - and I WANT MY CUT! :-)

  • Kids in the us today are often spoiled and do what ever the hell they want. Parents are often working and not supervising these kids. This will hopefully start to make parents responsible for there children.

    They have curfu in DC now too. 12pm. So tell me what the hell is a child under 12 doing outside at midnight if he is not coming home from a job? Hanging outside leads to boredom. Bordom leads to mischief. Mischief usually leads to trouble.

    It is terrible that the goverment has to regulate things like this when the parents should be doing this anyway, but in light of the fact that many people want to just have the kids and then have socuiety raise them, I for one am glad to see that society is saying you had your kids now it is time you took care of them!

    Note this is not all children but there is a large majority out there that fall in this category. It is a shame when adults do not feel safe around there children.

  • IIRC:

    • Multicast Loopback -still- doesn't work
    • IPv6 is unstable and does not support IPSec
    • Drivers can crash OS - buggy exception handling
    • PPP does not operate correctly. Still doesn't conform to protocol specs, and there are timing bugs.
    • RSVP is incomplete and unreliable
  • The implementation is buggier than Windows 2000. Privacy SHOULD be a right, not a concession. Not just to kids, but every single person.

    I couldn't agree less to this statement. If we want our rights, laws, and freedoms to work, they have to be in line with nature, not against it (think of the Tao fable about the butcher who never had to sharpen his knife).

    And nature, in the case of information, is mathematics. Mathematics dictates that information wants to be free. That is a sound right: all information is free.

    But nature makes no exceptions on this topic: not for information to be under the control of its originator like we try to enforce with patent and copyright law, and not for information to be under the control of its subject, like in privacy.

    Rights are granted to us by God. And I don't mean like in the bible (I have it on pretty good ground that the bible was written by man), but as in the world around us, the code that is not read from between two covers but deciphered through the understanding of our very existance.

    Trying to guarantee rights beyond that is difficult but possible: trying to guarantee rights that go straight against that is not only difficult, in vain, but also dangerous.

    /. is like a steer's horns, a point here, a point there and a lot of bull in between.
  • I think that you need to stop using the bold tag because it makes it hard to read your post, which is unfortunate because it's worth a read. I hope you didn't do this to the entire client's website or you'll have people banging down your door to ask you to stop using the bold tag like that.

    This wasn't a slam.. I'm just trying to humorously point something out to 'ya! :^)


  • "Example: If a web site aimed at kids asks an 'innocent' question such as "Do you go home to an empty house after school?" and the answers were matched up with the address and name, that could lead to robbery and maybe kidnapping if the right person got a hold of the info."

    There are already laws against kidnapping and there are already laws against robbery. Why not enforce those laws instead of coming up with yet another reason for the government to interfere.

    So the solution to this problem, rather then educating parents and children about issues, is to legislate? We teach kids not to open the door when their parents aren't home and we teach them not to give out their address over the phone and we tell them not to tell phone callers that they are home by themselves. Parents are responsible for this sort of problem and making it the responsibility of the business is ridiculous. It is yet another step in making the government the surrogate parents and letting parents off the hook for what their children do.

    We don't even regulate GUNS IN PEOPLE'S HOMES, for fuck's sake... but we are going to regulate businesses which gather the "personal information of children"? Which do you think is more dangerous?


  • Ethical/moral arguments regarding the voting status of minors is out of the scope of this thread. The fact is that minors are not permitted to vote. The parent has final say in what their child can and can not have, which includes property and money. I may not have been totally accurate in my last post when I said the children weren't earning the money themselves, but they ARE earning that money with the permission and under the umbrella of their parents.

    It's not a matter of two or more people "combining their say". The parents are the voters, not the children. The parents can certainly base their decision on what their child has to say, but they're naturally under no obligation to do so.

    In my opinion, lowering the voting age would be dangerous. Children tend not to have any real world experience with respects to how the world works and the ramifications of their decisions. It would be foolish to give them the ability to influence the government in such a way.
  • "Web sites... directed to, or that knowingly collect information, from children under 13"?

    Mark my words... this makes any site with any material that might remotely be attractive to children (sports sites or CNN, for example) well within their radar screen. That's how they went after the tobacco industry, because the ads are designed to appeal to young adults, so they obviously are "targetted at children" (you tell me how to target people who are 18 without including people who are 17, and I've got a bridge to sell you).

    Protect the kiddies indeed.
  • Do you honestly think Dell does this? How many IP addresses do you think on the 'Net actually map back to a domain name owned by the person browsing on that IP? Count the number of domains with unique contacts and divide by the number of total people that use the Internet. It would not make good business sense to pursue this incredibly small marketing target. I have dealt with Dell several times over the past few years, and visit their web site at least a few times per year. I have never once been contacted by Dell at the address listed in a contact for any of the domains I own.

    If Dell has your address (likely purchased from a computer-related list elsewhere, assuming you never gave it to them in the past), they're not going to wait until you browse their site one day before the send you out a mailer.

    The two incidents are almost certainly unrelated. Dell sent you a mailout because you either gave them your address or you've given your address to somebody that in turn gave it to Dell. Your web site visit had nothing to do with it.

    Contrary to what you seem to think, web sites out there aren't going around automatically track your IP addresses and through some feat of network magic find postal addresses for every person browsing their site just so they can send out mailers. There are much more efficient ways to do marketing.

    I'd suggest you take a look at Dell's posted online privacy policy at http://www.dell.com/policy/privacy.htm [dell.com]. If you don't trust them and think they're lying, don't do business with them.
  • There are pedophiles on the net and in real life. There are people that have very low morals that will stalk children and harm/kill them...

    Yes there are, but I'm so tired of hearing about them every time I read a mainstream media piece about the 'net. There are a handful of pedophiles (on the 'net and in "real life"), but there are thousands of companies (on the net and in "real life")that may want to collect information about children. They don't want to sexually abuse the precious moppets, but they do want to exploit them. They want to exploit you and me too, but that doesn't make it okay.

    That having been said, I agree somewhat that
    ...there is something to be said about obtaining without the consent of the parent personal info about a child, much less being able to sell that info across a number of other companies.

    Without consent is bad. But who is entitled to give consent? The law (in most states) says an individual must be 18 in order to give consent for sex (unless he/she is married). But a girl can (f'rinstance) consent to an abortion at any age.

    Children (not their parents/guardians) should be able to give consent to have information collected from/about them once they reach a certain age. Younger than that, and they're their parents'/guardians' responsibility. What is that magical age? I don't know, but I do know it's younger than 18, and older than 5. YMMV.

    How to enforce it? I don't know that either. It seems unenforceable.
  • How will web sites know who is under 18 and thus how will they know if they can collect info from this visitor to their web site?

    I suppose they could put up a "click here if you're 18 or older" button, but that smacks of a contract (at least as much of a contract as any EULA), and as we all know, kids cannot enter to a contract.

  • Each individual has boundaries. A boundary is essential for a healthy sense of self. You can often tell who has healthy boundaries and who doesn't. The mark of poor boundaries is a person who is sick with some kind of addiction of their own creation.

    (Typical examples: Codependency, Workaholism, Alchoholism, Sexaholism)

    Information does NOT want to be free, without exception, any more than water wants to flow uphill. Information obeys the SAME laws as anything else, including entropy and chaos.

    BUT Chaos allows for Strange Attractors - points around which things will orbit, held in by the very nature of the Universe itself. (Chaos mathematicians tend to be a little grandiose - just read some of Mandelbrot's stuff! :) The same is true with people. That which is MEANT to be inside our boundaries SHOULD stay inside our boundaries. Like the blood within us, not everything is healthy to let out.

  • No, it means we should expect the Government to empower parents with the capacity to protect their children, because companies sure as hell won't.

    "There is no surer way to ruin a good discussion than to contaminate it with the facts."

  • This country is explicitly NOT a democracy. It is a Republic. The Founding Fathers were quite explicit about that. Federalist No. 76 in particular talks about the appointing power of the Executive.

    Hamilton wrote that vesting the power of appointment in a single person
    will naturally beget a livelier sense of duty and a more exact regard to reputation. He will, on this account, feel himself under stronger obligations, and more interested to investigate with care the qualities requisite to the stations to be filled, and to prefer with impartiality the persons who may have the fairest pretensions to them. He will have
    fewer personal attachments to gratify, than a body of men who may each be supposed to have an equal number; and will be so much the less liable to be misled by the sentiments of friendship and of affection.
    He further believed that
    I proceed to lay it down as a rule, that one man of discernment is better fitted to analyze and estimate the peculiar qualities adapted to particular offices, than a body of men of equal or perhaps even of superior discernment.

    In Federalist 37 Madison specifically speaks about the Republican nature of the government and notes that
    It is
    sufficient for such a government that the persons administering it be appointed, either directly or indirectly , by the people.

    The President himself is not even directly appointed. How is that indirect appointment any different from the head of the FTC's indirect appointment?

    You may disagree with Hamilton and Madison's analysis. But you obviously misunderstand the principles upon which this nation was founded. In light of that, your argument is difficult to take seriously.
  • That which is MEANT to be inside our boundaries SHOULD stay inside our boundaries. Like the blood within us, not everything is healthy to let out.

    That which is meant to stay within your boundaries WILL stay within your boundaries. Your thoughts for example.

    I'm not saying that information strives for a spread out, ordered existance. There ARE attractors, there are secrets (and cryptography makes secrets completely feasable), but you cannot protect your privacy beyond your own ability to keep it private just because you proclaim it a right.

    /. is like a steer's horns, a point here, a point there and a lot of bull in between.
  • People appointed to these positions have no elections to worry about, only the job they're doing, so they have more of a reason to do it well.

    A fairly optimistic view; however, there is a fair bit of evidence that unelected officials may be predisposed to "cosy up" to the industries they are supposed to be regulating. Furthermore, you might want to examine the Japanese concept of "descent from heaven" (or its American analogue) for reference: ex-bureaucrats have this interesting tendency to go and work for industries they regulated after they leave office.

    Insulating the bureaucracy from direct pressure by the electorate has both good and bad aspects. The good usually outweighs the bad, except when Congress goes on one of its drunken binges of delegating huge swathes of authority to the bureaucracy without the constitutional authority to stop abuses (i.e. the legislative veto, declared unconsititutional by the Supreme Court). Things like Title IX enforcement have gotten way out of hand because of broad grants of authority from Congress.
  • First, I agree with your overall point - many parents use Television (and increasingly the PC/Internet) as electronic babysitters, which is abhorrent..

    But another (equally valid) point is that it's simply not possible to supervise a child 24 hours a day.. and if a kid REALLY wants to do something, they are going to find a way to do it..

    If Mom is surfing with the child, and she doesn't let him/her fill out a form (even if she explains why,) if the kid wants to see that site, the parent is not going to be able to stop the child from getting up early and going down to the computer room (ok, it _IS_ possible, if you're running a multi-user OS, and have proper permissions on the browser.. but let's be realistic, how many home users can actually do this - or even know it's possible?).. or what if little Bobby decides to go play at his friends place, who's parents don't supervise 'net activity? And let's face it - most children know way more than their parents about computers.

    My little sister once got it into her head that she wanted to smell everything (including everything that came in a bottle..) my parents warned her not to - it was dangerous, blah, blah... but when nobody was looking, she would always try to see what something smelled like... until she tried the bottle of bleach my mother kept under the bathroom sink (yes, the one with the child-proof lid) and she ran around screaming "my nose is on fire! my nose is on fire!"

    I agree that responsible parents will supervise their children when they're online, but if a website offers enough of an incentive, a child will always find a way to do it without consent.

  • -COPPA!

    (slightly modified pronounciation of "copper" meaning policeman. Used to make a driver aware of nearby peace officers)
  • "I agree that responsible parents will supervise their children when they're online, but if a website offers enough of an incentive, a child will always find a way to do it without consent."

    Precisely. This legislation actually does nothing other than to make businesses enact absolutely absurd (not to mention potentially expensive) tactics to extract the "consent" of parents. More likely what this will allow for is business getting not only information about children but about their parents (who do, after all, hold the purse strings).

    If, as you say, most kids know more about computers than their parents, wouldn't it hold true that a child could easily find a way around a business having to email their parent for permission? Couldn't a child easily "forge" such forms and petty annoyances?

    Now to address the issue that parents are incapable of supervising their children. If there is a computer which parents cannot control via software (for whatever reason: lack of technical knowledge; don't have proper OS) those parents have the responsibility to find another way to control access, if that is their desire. Put a lock on the door. Buy a case which requires a key. There are MANY other ways outside of legislation for parents to supervise their kids.

    It is sad that our governmental agencies are being drug down to the level of raising our children.


  • You're fooling yourself...we're living in a dictatorship...
  • It really is sad the state has to take responsibillity for children, but it is something that needs to be done. There are just to many neglectful parent who will not protect their children, that it is now nessary. Unforntuanatly this makes it harder for the many good parents out there to make decisions in what they feel is the best interest of their child. That is one on the fundumental problems all societies face, protection vs. freedom.

    Personally, this legistation does not bother me (although that might be different if i had to spend thousands of dollars and change my site). It seems to do a decent job of protecting people, without taking much freedom away from parents. The only problem that i have is that by age 16, most kids are able to make an informed decision on whether or not to submit personal information, and they should be able to without problem.
  • "Think about it-- The reason we have laws about parental consent isn't because parents are too lazy to watch their kids. "

    And taking away the consequences for their neglect will make parrents more or less neglectfull?

    "Is it really ok to punish the Timmy who forgets to ask Mommy or are too excited because the website is promising them Really Cool Games?"

    Yes, because next time it might be someone more dangerous than some toy company looking for unsupervised kids.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Um. Firsltly, you can view PDFs under Linux.

    PDF is very good for web people in a hurry when the content is already laid out for print. You just print it again, but to Adobe's thing instead of a print driver. *poof* a PDF. This is substantially faster than going through and converting something from a DTP format of some sort to HTML - usually a time consuming process.

    Much of the content that exists online in PDF wouldn't exist at all otherwise.
  • I'm used to writing for clueless external clients, who tend to simply skim what I write. I've found that if my points don't jump out at them, they tend to get skipped over, often times resulting in countless headaches for me. It seems to work very well for technical reviews [slashdot.org] (search for "Protocol Specifications Review" on the page), because the important data/points immediately draw your eye.

    That being said, it is quite possible that I went overboard on my other post ;)

    And as to the debate about the origin of that style of writing, I did read MAD Magazine a little too much as a kid, but more recently, I have been looking at Jakob Nielsen's Alertbox [useit.com] column.

    In reply to the rest of your comment:
    If you and your employers had any ethics you would not be collecting the data in the first place.
    Thank (insert deity of choice) that I don't work for that company - my company is a web design/programming agency, and were hired by an external client to create the site. I may have exaggerated the evilness of the client - parents (if they read the permission statement) are informed that their child may be contacted from time to time to participate in optional surveys. The client is actually a well respected polling company based in Rochester, NY, and they usually pretty straight up about things (other than a number of the employees being relatively clueless, but that's another rant...).

    Moderator: Please mark this down as off topic.

    Scott Severtson
    Applications Developer
  • by iMoron ( 69463 ) on Friday October 22, 1999 @02:09PM (#1594020)
    This article reminded me of something that happened earlier this year. Many years ago, I created a web page on Geocities (this was back when Geocities didn't suck). After the creation of the COPPA (last year), Geocities made a parent's permission required to create a web page on it for children under 13. I didn't really care, because I was over 13 at the time they made the announcement. Then, in February (I think), Geocities sent me an email saying that because I was under 13 at the time I had started my web page, they would require information from my parents or my page would be deleted. They wanted things like my address, my phone number, and other things that weren't required to sign up initially. I wrote Geocities an angry letter, knowing very well that nobody actually reads the email that gets sent to them. Not that I actually cared. My web page was fairly popular, but I was fed up with Geocities anyway (the slow speed, the lack of support, the pop-up banners, etc.) So I let them delete my page.

    I believe that the COPPA is not neccesary. If parents don't want their children visiting particular web sites, they should be monitoring their children's Internet usage. Parents shouldn't be required to give web sites a lot of information just to let their children visit the sites.
  • I can already hear people screaming over this, because it sounds as if the first waves of profound censorship is making its way unto the Net.

    This has nothing to do with censorship, it's about the role of our government in dictating how we raise our children. This is nothing like NetNanny because NetNanny is not mandated by the government or anyone else.

    it's about giving the parents the legal means to censor the Internet themselves.

    Parents have no business censoring the Internet and they already have the legal right to control what their kids do on the internet. This new regulation changes nothing in that respect.

  • They removed my page too, because I was out of the country at the time that I got the e-mail, and did not think to fax overseas... I lost MANY geopoints, hundreds of dollars worth.
  • And who is going to teach him to be a parent of himself the TV?

Radioactive cats have 18 half-lives.