New Bill Would Curb Behavioral Targeting Aimed At Teens

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Lawmakers in the House and Senate introduced legislation today that would impose new restrictions on companies' ability to collect data from children.

The “Do Not Track Kids” Act would amend the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act by prohibiting Web companies from collecting personal information from teens under 16 without their consent. Currently, the law prohibits companies from collecting such data from children younger than 13 without their parents' consent.

The law also would specifically prohibit companies from using behavioral targeting techniques to advertise to children under 13 without their parents' consent, and teens under 16 without their consent.  Also, the measure would create a so-called “eraser button,” which would allow teens or their parents to take down content about youngsters.

Sens. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) and Mark Kirk (R-Ill.), and Reps. Joe Barton (R-Texas) and Bobby Rush (D-Ill.) introduced the measure. Two years ago, Markey and Barton floated a similar proposal, which never went anywhere. Recently, however, some of the measures called for by the lawmakers have advanced. For instance, last year the Federal Trade Commission issued regulations banning companies from knowingly using behavioral targeting techniques on children younger than 13. And earlier this year, California passed legislation requiring Web sites to let teens delete their posts.

The proposal unveiled today is backed by a broad coalition of outside groups, including the American Academy of Pediatrics, Center for Digital Democracy, Center for Science in the Public Interest, Communication Workers of America, Consumer Watchdog and Consumers Union.

Consumer Watchdog added in a statement that even though it endorsed the bill, the measure doesn't go far enough to protect people's online privacy. “This bill would provide important protection for teens and is a significant step forward,” John Simpson, Consumer Watchdog’s privacy project director said in a statement. “However, ultimately what’s needed is a law that guarantees that all users of the Internet won’t be tracked when they don’t want their information taken.”

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