The legislation stalled in Congress, but the Obama administration and FTC officials are pushing for the industry to establish a voluntary “Do Not Track” standard.
It’s part of a growing focus on privacy at the FTC, which this year reached settlements with Internet giants Google and Facebook for privacy violations and opened an inquiry into data brokerage firms that collect, analyze and sell consumers’ personal information.
“We have taken a step back to look at how we’re approaching privacy, whether it makes sense with the types of technologies and different business models that are out there,” said Peder Magee, senior staff attorney for the FTC.
With the revised rule, the FTC broke new ground by defining data such as IP addresses and mobile device IDs as private information, said Daniel Castro, senior analyst at the Information Technology & Innovation Foundation, a Washington-based think tank. The agency also put limits on targeted advertising, and made it less attractive for third parties to do business with app and website developers, Castro said.
He’s concerned that COPPA rules could “leak out” of the children’s environment and impact other websites.
“Right now, many websites ‘embed’ content, but if third parties are concerned about liability, they may impose restrictions on which websites can embed their tools,” Castro said. “If it is more difficult to embed third-party content, some websites may just not do this, which would be a loss for everyone.”
But consumer groups aren’t buying the argument that more regulation means less quality content online.
“If the industry wants to build a robust and long-term marketplace among families, they have to respect privacy and build trust,” said Jim Steyer, CEO of the nonprofit Common Sense Media. “Privacy is a fundamental right.”