‘Do Not Track’ for Kids Is Coming


A co-chair of the U.S. House Privacy Caucus expects to introduce a comprehensive children’s privacy bill including a “Do Not Track” requirement early this year. Massachusetts Democrat Ed Markey hopes to attract a co-sponsor if not several co-sponsors for the bill, according to a spokesperson for the Congressman.

The legislation is currently being drafted and should be complete “early this year,” the spokesperson told ClickZ News.

“At this point we don’t yet have a co-sponsor but we anticipate that, because of the attention that this issue is getting right now, that we will find one and maybe even several,” she said, noting that the legislation is also expected to have bipartisan support.

Markey (pictured above) in December announced his intentions to introduce the legislation (see video below). He was a sponsor of the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act of 1998, which put rules in place to protect privacy of children’s data online. He suggested in December that new legislation is needed to address the impact of Facebook as well as online tracking on kids.

“The Internet is like online oxygen for children. They spend a great deal of time there,” said the spokesperson. “Children often don’t know where their information will end up when they’re online… The legislation will address this particular population.”

A Markey bill would join two other online privacy related bills that have been officially introduced, including the most recent from California Democrat Jackie Speier. In addition to Speier’s “Do Not Track Me Online Act of 2011,” fellow Democrat Bobby Rush recently reintroduced his own online privacy bill into the current Congress.

Markey has referred to the time period during which COPPA was enacted as “B.F,” meaning “Before Facebook.” Earlier this month he and Texas Republican Joe Barton, the other co-chair of the U.S. House Privacy Caucus, sent a letter to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg inquiring about plans to allow third parties to access Facebook users’ mobile phone numbers and addresses.

Markey homed in on the impact of Facebook’s plans on children and teens in the February 2 letter, asking, “Before its decision to enable the new feature, did Facebook consider the risks to children and teenagers posed by enabling third parties to access their home addresses and mobile phone numbers through Facebook?”

The responses to that letter are due today. A Facebook spokesperson told ClickZ in an e-mail that the company would be submitting its response today. Markey’s spokesperson this morning said the Congressman had yet to receive Facebook’s response.

The Federal Trade Commission is in charge of enforcing COPPA rules, and the agency is currently reviewing those rules. “I don’t want to prejudge anything we might issue in our COPPA review,” said FTC Jon Leibowitz in a recent interview with Multichannel News. “But you want to have a benchmark standard for protecting privacy, and then when it comes to particularly vulnerable populations or sensitive information, so health information and financial information, it may call for greater privacy protection.”

The FTC has concluded its comment period on its report calling for a do-not-track mechanism aimed at protecting consumer data privacy. The agency expects to make public recommendations for updating COPPA in the late spring, according to the Multichannel News interview with Leibowitz.

Related reading