IAB: FTC Could 'Play Scrooge' With New Privacy Regs


One day after dozens of organizations pressed the Federal Trade Commission for stronger children's privacy regulations, the Interactive Advertising Bureau reiterated its stance that new restrictions could result in less available content for children.

"Recent proposals made by the FTC would conflate benign data transfers, which present no discernible threat to children’s online safety, with very real concerns about the unauthorized collection of information that might allow strangers to contact our children," IAB general counsel Mike Zaneis wrote Friday in a blog post titled "Don't let the FTC steal Christmas."

"The IAB hopes that the FTC will not undermine legitimate commercial practices that have revolutionized the way kids learn and play in the digital age," Zaneis says. "This holiday season let's celebrate innovation and technology instead of playing scrooge to American families."



The text is accompanied by a cartoon image of Santa Claus with a tablet (or smartphone) in one hand, and a sledgehammer marked "New Regs" in the other. He is poised to smash a device held by a little girl who's sitting on his lap. A group of upset children who already visited Santa stand off to the side, where they hold the remnants of tablets and smartphones with smashed screens.

The Children's Online Privacy Protection Act bans Web site operators from knowingly collecting personal information from children under 13 without parental consent. The law empowers the FTC to pass implementing regulations and also to define key terms, including Web site operators and personal information.

The FTC recently proposed updating the COPPA regulations by broadening the definition of personal information to include unique identifiers, including certain types of cookies, device serial numbers, and in some cases, IP addresses.

The agency wants third parties like ad networks to avoid collecting data from children -- including cookie-based information that's not linked to names -- provided that the networks have reason to know they have a presence on sites directed to kids. The FTC proposes that publishers would be responsible if ad networks and other third parties that gather data don't comply with COPPA -- regardless of whether the publishers themselves collect the information.

If those proposals are enacted, they would effectively ban marketers from using behavioral targeting techniques on children under 13. The proposals also could result in new liability for publishers.

The IAB has been advocating against the proposals, arguing that tracking cookies and other "persistent identifiers" are anonymous and only identify particular devices, not users. The trade group also says that the proposal to hold publishers liable when ad networks or app developers violate COPPA would pose technical challenges to the online ecosystem.

Privacy group Center for Digital Democracy, which is lobbying for tighter COPPA rules, wasn't impressed with the IAB's latest effort. The "desperate cartoon using Santa Claus reveals an inability for the online ad industry to take the privacy issues seriously," the CDD wrote Friday in a blog post.

CDD and other organizations, including the American Heart Association and American Academy of Pediatrics, say new COPPA rules are needed to address recent technological developments.


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