New Law Protects Kids' Privacy, But What About the Rest of Us?

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Calling all kiddie sites. There's a new sheriff in town. The Children's Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) goes into effect today, a year and half after first being passed by Congress. Commercial sites that collect personal information from kids under 13 will be violating federal law if they don't first get written parental consent.

COPPA is supposed to correct an alarming web marketing practice: amid kid sites' bright candy colors and gooey big font letterings were requests for children's personal information, often including age and address. While this might come as a surprise to any child-free adult, an estimated 90 percent of commercial kid sites collect information from schoolchildren, sometimes disclosing or selling it to a third party. Only one percent required parental permission. As of today, the sites will have to obtain verifiable parental consent (VPC) in the form of a faxed or mailed letter (not Internet consent). The sites also must inform parents of security measures regarding children's data, and also how the business intends to use the parent-approved information. Under COPPA parents also have the right to specify that their children's information will not be distributed to third parties. COPPA also recommends that sites request the minimum information needed by the site.

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