Markey Takes Aim at Online Privacy

WASHINGTON — If Congress can get past its current budget and appropriations fights, look for newly minted senator and Commerce Committee member Ed Markey (D-Mass.) to ramp up his push for online do-not-track legislation and generally better online protection for kids.

Markey will make online privacy in general and protecting kids in particular a priority, according to a source familiar with his thinking. On that font, he has an ally in the committee’s chairman, Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.).

In the House, Markey was co-chairman of the Congressional Bipartisan Privacy Caucus. He and his co-chair, Rep. Joe Barton (RTex.) — yes, Democrats and Republicans once worked together — teamed on a kids do-not-track bill that has yet to gain traction.

Markey was a driving force behind the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act, which established baseline privacy protections. He has pushed to expand the law to cover teen-agers and to make do-not-track the default setting for both kids and teens.

The Center for Digital Democracy was not waiting for Congress to get its act together to continue its efforts to protect kids online.

The CDD last week launched a new online guide to why parents should not allow kids under 13 to use social-networking site Facebook. It comes in response to what the advocacy group called Facebook’s effort to open up the social network to kids 12 and under.

A 2011 Consumer Reports survey found that more than 5 million kids were on Facebook. The company concedes that fact, though Facebook policy does not allow kids to set up profiles.

Last year, Facebook indicated it was considering whether or not to open the network to kids. It told concerned members of Congress it had made no decision. But it has suggested that the answer, rather than building a stronger digital wall, might be giving kids a path to Facebook citizenship, as it were, with their parents’ permission and guidance.

“Facebook requires users to be at least 13 years of age, and we are in continuous dialogue with stakeholders about how to best help parents keep their kids safe in an evolving online environment,” a company spokesperson said.

No Place For Kids

The Center for Digital Democracy’s five reasons kids under age 13 should stay off Facebook are:

• Children would become part of one of the Internet’s most expansive personal data collection and profiling platforms.

• Children would be exposed to a new generation of highly persuasive and manipulative digital marketing practices.

• Facebook’s marketing practices would take advantage of children’s cognitive, social, and emotional vulnerabilities.

• Children would be subjected to an onslaught of unhealthy food marketing — precisely at a time when childhood obesity has become a major crisis.

• There are no safeguards in place that can adequately protect children from Facebook’s aggressive and harmful marketing and data collection practices.

SOURCE : Center for Digital Democracy


Massachusetts Democrat Ed Markey will take his push for more online protection for kids from the House to the Senate.

John Eggerton

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.