Markey, Barton Propose Ad Limits On Targeting Minors
A draft of the Do Not Track Kids Act, unveiled Friday by Reps. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) and Joe Barton (R-Texas) significantly expands the decade-old Children's Online Privacy Protection Act. That law requires that companies obtain parental consent before collecting personal information from children under 13. COPPA also defines personal information relatively narrowly as names, email addresses or any other information that could be used to contact children.
The new measure would broaden that definition to include unique identifiers, IP addresses and anything that permits the identification of a computer.
In addition, the proposal bans behavioral targeting of children under age 13, as well as teens under 18. Specifically, the bill says that Web sites aimed at minors, or sites that know they are collecting data from minors, may not use or share that data for purposes of "targeted marketing."
The Markey-Barton draft bill also contains provisions that could have a major impact on sites like Facebook, which collect information from teens under 18. The measure would allow companies to continue gathering some information from teens, but only if those companies adhere to Fair Information Practices Principles. Such principles require companies to limit the data they collect; the principles also call on companies to obtain people's consent before sharing their data or using it for purposes other than what it was collected for.
The bill also limits companies' ability to collect geolocation data for minors under 18. It requires companies to create an "eraser" button that would provide for the deletion of publicly available information about minors.
Jeffrey Chester, executive director of the Center for Digital Democracy, praised the measure. "It provides a package of safeguards that can protect the privacy interest of young people," he said. Chester helped lead the initiative that resulted in the passage of the original Children's Online Privacy Protection Act.
The Markey-Barton bill is just one of several potential pieces of privacy legislation under consideration. Earlier this year, Rep. Jackie Speier (D-Calif.) introduced a more comprehensive measure that would require ad networks to allow people to avoid being tracked as they surf the Web.
In the Senate, John Kerry (D-Mass.) and John McCain (R-Ariz.) also recently unveiled a bill that could limit the use and collection of data online. Plus, Senate Commerce Committee head Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) said on Friday that he plans to introduce a bill that would require companies to avoid tracking consumers who take steps to opt out.
Current industry self-regulatory standards call for companies to notify consumers about behavioral targeting and allow them to opt out of receiving targeted ads. Those standards, however, are voluntary. They don't necessarily prohibit ad networks or other companies from tracking people.
A recent study by Carnegie Mellon researchers found that only 22 ad networks out of 58 that belong to the self-regulatory group Network Advertising Initiative stopped collecting tracking data after users opted out.