New rules aimed at protecting children online

New online child safety rules aim to protect kids on social media, smartphones

DETROIT - Parents need to be aware of new rules aimed at protecting children using the Internet.

Websites and phone apps that collect photos or geo-location data from children must now obtain express permission from parents, putting that data in the same category as kids' email or home addresses. The new Children's Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) rules also make firms more responsible for data collection by third parties, a loophole that had been exploited by marketers in the past.

Parents might not notice much change at first. Some apps that kids use might begin requesting parental permissions via emails or other methods, and parents should make sure kids don't circumvent those rules by using fake email address to grant themselves permission.

Others worry that the stricter rules will mean some companies will stop making kids' apps and that young tech users will lie their way onto adult services instead of going through the steps needed to get parental permission.

Facebook and children
Kids already have a very complicated relationship with popular sites like Facebook, with various actors playing out an online kabuki dance. Facebook, for example, doesn't allow under 13 kids to use its site, so the firm isn't subject to COPPA restrictions. But millions of kids lie their way onto the social network anyway, and half the parents of 12-year-old kids say their kids use the site.

The new COPPA won't have any real impact on this circumvention, but it might impact third-party developers who target kids on Facebook, said privacy law expert Bradley Shear.

Facebook told NBC News Monday that it's "in the process of updating our terms and policies" to reflect the new rules. "For our part, we encourage developers to become familiar with our revised policies, particularly around social plugins," a company representative said.

The COPPA update includes other provisions aimed at protecting children, too. Firms are forbidden from using digital identifiers, like cookies, to track kids and to

The FTC recently published a frequently-asked-questions primer on the new rules for parents and businesses.


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