Facebook and Other Tech Giants Score Victory in FTC Ruling

online_privacy_redbuttonThe Federal Trade Commission (FTC) announced its new rules on Wednesday that govern how third-party online apps can gather information from children. Facebook, Google and others lobbied heavily against some of the proposed changes, and the rules that ultimately passed are slightly watered down from the original proposed regulations as a result. The original legislation would have held the websites themselves accountable if the rules were violated, though the rule now reads that sites like Facebook will only face punishment if they have “actual knowledge” that an app is not above board.

And what are those rules? First of all, a child’s photos, videos and location cannot be collected without a parent’s consent. The rules also closed off a loophole that allowed third-party apps to gather children’s information without informing them or their parents. However, because of intense lobbying in the tech industry, Facebook and other sites will not be held accountable if apps or games on their pages violate the FTC’s new rules. Privacy watchdogs are happy with the ruling, though some are dismayed by the tech giants’ hesitancy to take responsibility for the apps they provide.

“The industry definitely did the best it could to lobby to water down the FTC’s proposed updates,” James Steyer, CEO and founder of advocacy group Common Sense Media, told the Los Angeles Times. “But what was interesting is that they all took that lobbying in different directions – each group wanted someone else to have the responsibility. The app developers passed the buck to the app stores. The app stores passed the buck to the advertisers. In the end, no one in the industry at all was willing to step up and take responsibility for protecting kids. Fortunately, the FTC struck an appropriate balance.”

FTC Chairman Jon Leibowitz made the following statement regarding the updated privacy rule, “I am confident that the amendments to the COPPA Rule strike the right balance between protecting innovation that will provide rich and engaging content for children, and ensuring that parents are informed and involved in their children’s online activities.”

Click here to read the FTC press release and for a full list of the final amendments.

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