New regulations boost children's privacy online - NBC12 - WWBT - Richmond, VA News On Your Side

New regulations boost children's privacy online

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) -

New rules could lead to big fines on companies that violate your children's privacy online, but there could also be a loophole that puts your children at an even greater risk.

Your kid may or may not have their own smartphone, but they've probably played with some apps on a mobile device or on Facebook.

Until now, as long as children were 13 or older, companies were free to take the photos, videos and even information about they shared about their location, without parental consent, and do whatever they want with it.

Now the Federal Trade Commission has come up with the first updates to the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA), which will ban that sort of data collection. The updates also apply to websites that could be tracking your children online.

If companies get caught, it could cost them up to $16,000 per incident. These are big improvements that will help keep your kids safe, certainly, but some say it isn't enough.

For one, Facebook can now allow kids under 13 to use their site, as long as they agree not to collect photos, videos or their location.

Plus, the regulations still allow what's called contextual advertising, regardless of age. Contextual ads are the ads on sites, like Facebook, targeted to your kids based on the information on the page. So, now a 6-year-old can not only be on Facebook, but could have ads targeted to them.

Though Facebook and other companies haven't said they want to target ads to kids of all ages, many people are nervous about the possibility.

The new act does call for greater transparency, so read the privacy policies, keep little ones offline unless you're certain they're safe, and even then, make sure you know what they're sharing.

Copyright 2012 WWBT NBC12.  All rights reserved.

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