Toddlers With Tablets: Lawmakers Say Research Could Lead To New Privacy Regs

Citing new research about the use of tablets and smartphones by children, two lawmakers said today that they plan to introduce privacy legislation.

“Increasing use of mobile devices by very young children coupled with rapid change in technological development makes it more important than ever to put federal legislation on the books that provides parents with the tools to protect their children online,”  Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) and Joe Barton (R-Texas) said in a joint statement.

They were referring to a report released today by Common Sense Media, which found that even toddlers use tablets these days. The group reports that 72% of children under 8 have accessed media via a tablet, smartphone or other mobile device, as have 38% of children under the age of 2.

At first glance, however, it's not clear what the connection is between the new report and the potential new bill. The federal Children's Online Privacy Protection Act already prohibits Web site operators, ad networks and app developers from collecting personal data from children under 13, without their parents' permission. And the Federal Trade Commission recently extended that ban to behavioral targeting -- or sending ads to children based on information collected across more than one site.

Markey and Barton haven't offered more information about their proposed new bill, but two years ago they floated a measure that would have prohibited companies from using behavioral targeting techniques on teens younger than 16. That measure also called for an "eraser" button, to allow teens to delete publicly available information about themselves.

While the “Do Not Track Kids” Act never went anywhere in Congress, a variation of the right-to-delete concept recently gained ground in California. That state just passed legislation requiring Web sites to let teens delete their posts.

The idea also is moving forward in Europe, where an EU civil liberties committee recently voted in favor of a law giving all consumers -- not just minors -- the right to delete their tweets, Facebook photos and other material they posted on the Web.

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