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    Canadian Officials Raise Concerns About Children’s Online Privacy

    At the semi-annual meeting of Canada’s federal, provincial, and territorial privacy commissioners and ombudsmen, the officials released a resolution on children’s online privacy. The officials noted that, “The vast majority of Canadian children and young people are online […] They are predominantly using the Internet for social interaction […] In addition to the safety risks inherent in posting personal information online, many popular kids’ sites collect personal information and use it for marketing purposes.” The officials seek to educate children about the dangers of online interactions and defenses available to protect their privacy.

    The officials also will work with industry and Web site operators on privacy policies that are protective of and easily understood by youths. Among other things, the officials said in their resolution:

    The Commissioners responsible for private sector privacy laws (Alberta, British Columbia, Quebec and Canada) urge industry to adopt the highest standard of privacy possible when developing online environments targeted at children and young people.

    The Commissioners urge operators of websites created for children and young people to demonstrate their social responsibility in adopting privacy policies and usage agreements that are clear, simple, and understandable to the user, and educating their users of existing privacy and security risks.

    The Commissioners will develop guidance for industry to assist operators of websites for children and youth in the development of better privacy practices.

    In the United States, the federal Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) seeks to protect children from online marketing techniques that are invasive and that their parents do not know of nor consent to. COPPA sets out regulations on the collection, access to and use of personal data by Web sites that are targeted to children (under age 13). It does not apply to Web sites that are not targeted specifically toward children. However, such general-audience sites must follow the COPPA regulations if they have specific sections for children or actual knowledge of children using their site (and therefore that they are collecting data from children). The Act also applies to international Web sites that are directed at children in the United States. Privacy Rights Clearinghouse has a good page on children’s online privacy.

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