Will The Government Help Protect My Kids?

When you ask most parents what comes to mind when they hear the word COPPA, if they are my age, they think of the Barry Manilow song Coppa Cabana. Fast forward several years into a new generation, and we now have a new COPPA. This new COPPA stands for Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act. This act was designed to protect children from the unlawful collection and posting of personal information. For those of you who enjoy reading complex legislation, below you will find the full law that was signed into legislation in ______. For those of you who prefer the Reader’s Digest version, in short, the act prohibits the collecting and posting of children’s private information.

Here are some key excerpts we extracted from the act:
(1) CHILD — The term “child” means an individual under the age of 13.

(2) OPERATOR — The term “operator” means any person who operates a website located on the Internet or an online service and who collects or maintains personal information from or about the users of or visitors to such website or online service, or on whose behalf such information is collected or maintained, where such website or online service is operated for commercial purposes, including any person offering products or services for sale through that website or online service, involving commerce—

(A) the release of personal information collected from a child in identifiable form by an operator for any purpose, except where such information is provided to a person other than the operator who provides support for the internal operations of the website and does not disclose or use that information for any other purpose; and
(B) making personal information collected from a child by a website or online service directed to children or with actual knowledge that such information was collected from a child, publicly available in identifiable form, by any means including by a public posting, through the Internet, or through—
(i) a home page of a website;
(ii) a pen pal service;
(iii) an electronic mail service;
(iv) a message board; or
(v) a chat room.

(8) PERSONAL INFORMATION — The term “personal information” means individually identifiable information about an individual collected online, including—
(A) a first and last name;
(B) a home or other physical address including street name and name of a city or town;
(C) an e-mail address;
(D) a telephone number;
(E) a Social Security number;
(F) any other identifier that the Commission determines permits the physical or online contacting of a specific individual; or
(G) information concerning the child or the parents of that child that the website collects online from the child and combines with an identifier described in this paragraph.

Regardless of whether you read any of the law, COPPA is an amazingly yet somewhat ineffective law in my opinion for one reason – the minimum age. While I do not have a scientific study on the global opinions of parents in regards to online privacy, but I can only assume most parents think 13 is too young to limit this act. There should be no reason why COPPA should not be extended to all children under 18 or at least a more appropriate age. Regardless of your political affiliation, COPPA is a good reason why parents should take the responsibility of protecting their children and not leave it to the government. Hopefully we can see some new legislation passed in the coming years to better help protect our child at the appropriate ages.