Kids, Privacy, Free Speech & the Internet

Finding the Right Balance

This paper discusses the unintended consequences of well-intentioned efforts to expand privacy regulations under the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act of 1998.

In the field of Internet policy, 2011 has been the year of privacy. Congress has introduced six bills related to online privacy, and the Obama administration released two major reports recommending greater federal oversight of online markets. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) appears poised to step up regulatory activity on this front. State-level activity is also percolating, led by California, which floated two major bills recently.

These efforts would expand regulatory oversight of online activities in various ways. Some measures would institute "Fair Information Practice Principles" (FIPPS), governing the collection and use of personal information online. Others would limit some types data collection, ban certain data or advertising practices, or create new mechanisms to help consumers block online ad-targeting techniques. Another measure would mandate websites adopt a so-called Internet "Eraser Button," which would allow users to purge unwanted personal information from online sites and services.