Between geolocation smartphone apps, social media updates and web traffic analysis, the online world probably knows a lot about you. While there aren’t too many strict regulations regarding online privacy for adults, the United States does have some requirements for websites aimed at children. Several companies, including McDonalds and General Mills, have recently been accused of violating the U.S. Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA), according to a recent Marketplace Tech article.”Basically the idea is that a kid goes onto the website, is playing a fun game, then is prompted hey, why don’t you email any of your friends that might want to get here, and so the idea is to drive traffic to the website,” said Ryan Calo, an assistant professor at the University of Washington School of Law, who was quoted in the article.
The problem is that some of those website practices fall into a legal grey area, according to the article. Although COPPA restricts the ways in which websites can collect and use personal information of individuals under the age of 13, it doesn’t have clear guidelines for sites that encourage children to email other kids.
The article also highlighted a larger problem: Most adults, as well as children, don’t fully understand how companies are collecting and using their data. This means few internet users leverage solutions such as application control to prevent apps from collecting their private data.
As technology advances, the amount of information organizations can collect on consumers grows, along with privacy concerns. As a recent Forbes article pointed out, consumer devices are collecting information even while their owners sleep – smartphones report on user locations, the electric company records power usage, etc. The big question is whether these data collection efforts are justified or if companies are taking things too far.
Do companies collect too much information about their customers? Should governments be able to design stricter online privacy laws for adults?