Protect Children's Privacy Online

Whether playing, shopping, studying or just surfing, today's kids are taking advantage of all that the web has to offer. But when it comes to their personal information online, who's in charge?

In an effort to put parents in the catbird seat, the Federal Trade Commission has established new rules for website operators to make sure that kids' privacy is protected while they're online. These rules are part of the 1998 Children's Online Privacy Protection Act. Here's a look at what the law requires, starting April 21, 2000.

Website Operators Must:

Post their privacy policy.

Websites directed to children or that knowingly collect information from kids under 13 must post a notice of their information collection practices that includes: types of personal information they collect from kids-for example, name, home address, email address or hobbies.

  • how the site will use the information-for example, to market to the child who supplied the information, to notify contest winners or to make the information available through a child's participation in a chat room.
  • whether personal information is forwarded to advertisers or other third parties.
  • a contact at the site.

Get parental consent.

In many cases, a site must obtain parental consent before collecting, using or disclosing personal information about a child.

Consent is not required when a site is collecting an email address to:

  • respond to a one-time request from the child.
  • provide notice to the parent.
  • ensure the safety of the child or the site.
  • send a newsletter or other information on a regular basis as long as the site notifies a parent and gives them a chance to say no to the arrangement.

Parents Should:

Look for a privacy policy on any website directed to children.

The policy must be available through a link on the website's homepage and at each area where personal information is collected from kids. Websites for general audiences that have a children's section must post the notice on the homepages of the section for kids.

Read the policy closely to learn the kinds of personal information being collected, how it will be used, and whether it will be passed on to third parties. If you find a website that doesn't post basic protections for children's personal information, ask for details about their information collection practices.

Decide Whether to Give Consent

Giving consent authorizes the website to collect personal information from your child. You can give consent and still say no to having your child's information passed along to a third party.

Your consent isn't necessary if the website is collecting your child's email address simply to respond to a one-time request for information.

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