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New rules tighten kids' online privacy
FTC beefs up rules after rejecting lobbying by tech, media industries

Federal regulators have taken the first major step in nearly 15 years to strengthen children's online privacy.

The Federal Trade Commission said Wednesday it has given parents greater control over the information that online services collect from children 12 and under, rejecting heavy lobbying from the technology and media industries that said the changes would hamper economic growth, stifle innovation and limit the scope and number of online games and educational programs for children.

The FTC began a review of the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act in 2010. It said the law needed to catch up with the advances in technology and the explosion of mobile devices.

"The commission takes seriously its mandate to protect children's online privacy in this ever-changing technological landscape," FTC Chairman Jon Leibowitz said in a statement.

"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."

Among the steps it has taken, the FTC:

Made it clear a child's location, photos and videos cannot be collected without a parent's permission.

Closed a loophole that allowed mobile apps and websites to permit third parties to collect personal information from children without notifying or obtaining the consent of parents.

Extended children privacy rules to cover IP addresses, mobile device IDs and other means of identifying a user, requiring services to take "reasonable steps" to release children's information only to companies that can keep it "secure and confidential."

Privacy watchdogs backed the rules.

"We are at a critical moment in the growth of the children's digital marketplace as social networks, mobile phones and gaming platforms become an increasingly powerful presence in the lives of young people," said Kathryn Montgomery, professor of communications at American University.

She said the rules should help ensure companies will "engage in fair marketing and data collection practices."

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