Thursday, December 2, 2010

Do Not Track Kids - An Idea That's Overdue

A proposed law being formulated right now would block Web sites from tracking the online behavior of kids. Although the legislation is still being drafted--and its future possibilities are unclear--I think this is a good start toward protecting the privacy of children and their families.

Only yesterday, the FTC endorsed the idea of a "Do not track" online system, akin to the "Do not call" phone registry. In his public statement, the head of the FTC observed:
The FTC [recently] charged that EchoMetrix sold so-called “Sentry” software to enable parents to monitor their children online, but it failed to adequately disclose that it also sold information about the kids’ online activities to third-party marketers. The only – only – potential hint to parents was a vague statement buried 30 paragraphs down in the Sentry end user license agreement.
Hardly a transparent practice, is it? That's one reason the FTC wants to see a "Do not track" system, and I agree.

Also, I notice that the Wall Street Journal's story on the proposed anti-tracking legislation has 8 trackers on it (I know because I've installed Ghostery to count and block as many as possible). The New York Times's story on the FTC statement had only 3 trackers.

If adults want to consent to be tracked online, they can make an informed decision to opt in or out. Kids, however, aren't in the same category. Sorry, my opinion is that marketers should not be tracking what kids do online; businesses that value their reputation for customer-centric policies will welcome guidelines for preventing such tracking.

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