Advocates: Marketers Need Teen Consent For Online Info


A coalition of health organizations and advocacy groups say that marketers should obtain teens' explicit consent before collecting information about them online.

"Currently, adolescents lack appropriate privacy protections in the digital marketplace," the organizations state in a letter to Department of Commerce General Counsel Cameron Kerry and Department of Justice Assistant Attorney General Christopher Schroeder. The two co-chair the National Science and Technology Council's Interagency Subcommittee on Privacy and Internet Policy.

The advocates are urging the Obama Administration to call for companies to follow Fair Information Practices principles when marketing to Web users between the ages of 13 and 17.

"These practices would apply to marketers that are specifically targeting teens, and would include creating user-friendly privacy policies designed for teens ... as well as mechanisms for teenagers to opt in to data collection," the groups state.



Organizations signing the letter include the American Academy of Pediatrics, Center for Digital Democracy, Center for Science in the Public Interest and Consumer Federation of America.

Fair Information Practices principles generally require companies to limit the data they collect, and to obtain people's consent before sharing their data or using it for purposes other than what it was collected for. The groups say those principles should apply to "anonymous" behavioral advertising, or tracking users' Web activity in order to serve them targeted ads.

Groups signing Tuesday's letter characterize teens as "key targets in a rapidly growing online marketplace that subjects them to increasing amounts of data collection, behavioral profiling, and manipulative techniques that threaten their privacy."

The organizations argue that adolescents need special protections because they "experience greater emotional volatility than either younger children or adults" and, therefore, are potentially "more susceptible to digital marketing."

But the groups are not calling for the federal Children's Online Privacy Protection Act to be expanded to include minors 13 and older. That law requires Web site operators to obtain parents' consent before collecting personal information from children younger than 13.

Earlier this year, Reps. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) and Joe Barton (R-Texas) unveiled the Do Not Track Kids Act, which would ban behavioral targeting to teens under 18. That bill also also limits companies' ability to collect geolocation data for minors under 18 and requires companies to create an "eraser" button enabling the deletion of publicly available information about minors.

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