If you're a parent, you're likely thinking long and hard about how and when to get your kid online. It's a jungle out there, and you can't always be there to guide them to safety, especially once they get their own phone. While you can teach them how to protect themselves against would-be predators, a more benign threat operates close to the surface of just about every online interaction: data privacy.
While those of us that are old enough to weigh the pros and cons of using Google services and surrendering an amount of personal data in the process, it's something a little too nuanced for kids. That's why back in 1998, the U.S. passed COPPA, the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act. It stops companies from holding children's information any longer than it needs to, sets rules for verifiable parental consent to get a child's information in the first place, and makes certain deceptive practices litigable.
The law has teeth, too. Just this last February, TikTok, a massively popular social music app among the youg'uns, was slapped with a $5.7 million fine by the FTC for collecting data of users under the age of 13 without parents' consent. In December Oath, the Verizon-owned umbrella encompassing AOL and Yahoo, was dinged for $5 million for "flagrantly" violating COPPA. Folks have gone so far as to sue Google and Twitter just for working with and advertising for developers that were infringing on COPPA. At the end of the day, COPPA is about stopping kids from getting sucked into a behavioral tracking algorithm before they have any idea about how the system works.
As a parent, how can you leverage these protections? Well, there are these organizations that certify products that meet or exceed COPPA standards. If you see a product with a COPPA seal of approval from TRUSTe, ESRB, CARU, PRIVO, Aristotle Inc., Samet Privacy (kidSAFE), or the Internet Keep Safe Coalition (iKeepSafe), then your kid's data is safe. You'll see these certifications on devices like Coolpad's Dyno Smartwatch, educational apps, games, and plenty of other products in the tech sphere.
Given the increasing incidence of big companies getting hit by COPPA violations, it's clear there's a corporate appetite for children's data. As a parent, it's worth the extra diligence when signing up for apps and services for your child to protect them from being fed too hastily into a well-oiled advertising machine. For that added peace of mind, keep an eye out for COPPA certifications next time you're getting something for your kid.
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