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FTC To Include Teen-Targeted Measures In Online Privacy Recommendations

Look for
the Federal Trade Commission's upcoming online privacy recommendations to
suggest increased online privacy protections for teenagers 13 and up, but not
to simply graft the parental notification/consent model in child online
protection law onto older kids.

That word
came in prepared testimony by Jessica Rich, deputy director of the FTC's Bureau
of Consumer
Protection, in a Senate Commerce Committee on "Protecting Youth in an
Online World."

the FTC's planned privacy recommendations stemming from its roundtable
discussions, Rich said that "The Commission expects that the privacy
proposals emerging from this initiative will provide teens both a greater
understanding of how their data is used and a greater ability to control such

commission has been holding roundtable discussions on how to protect privacy in
a digital world, and has sought comment on how and if it should modify its
enforcement of the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA).

Rich also
said that the commission "is available to work with the committee" if
it decides it wants to legislate increased protections for teens.

announced in March a review of its rules implementing the Children's Online
Privacy Protection Act (COPPA). The Bush FTC reviewed the 2000 rule back in
2005 and decided it didn't need any updating. But the current FTC
"believes that changes to the online environment over the past five years,
including children's increasing use of mobile technology to access the
Internet, warrant reexamining the rule."

protections, primarily requiring operators to get parental permission before
they collect, use, or disclose personal information, apply to children under
13. Rich suggested that simply applying that same parental notice and consent
model would be difficult to simply apply to teens.

During the
hearing, Rich told Committee Chairman Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) that she did
not think teens had the decision-making capacities of adults, but that the FTC
was "very skeptical" that the COPPA model would apply to teens, who
are more likely to alter info to bypass consent. But she echoed
her prepared testimony that the FTC would work with the committee if it wants to
come up with a different model.

said he thought the subject of online protection was a "game
changer," saying he thought it wasn't just about educating parents, but
about "scaring the hell out of them" about what their kids are doing
that they don't know about. "We agree that the privacy and safety of teens
is immensely important."

said he wanted to see a "more aggressive attitude on intervention" from
the wireless communications industry. Rockefeller was responding in part to K.
Dane Snowden, VP of CTIA-The Wireless Association, who emphasized education and

But the
senator did not reserve his criticism to the wireless industry. He pointed out
that the movie industry several years ago did not offer up a serious effort to
combat sex and violence, and that the cable companies "do not monitor
their content." He said that those cable companies say they are giving consumers
what they want, but that was not the case. "They give them what they teach
their watchers to want to watch," he said, admitting it was not
Shakespeare, but saying he had made his point.

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.