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Sheila Millar Quoted in Article on Children's Online Privacy

Date: Nov 07, 2012

Keller and Heckman Partner Sheila Millar was quoted in an October 30, 2012, FTC:WATCH article titled, "COPPA controversy opens a window on fears for children's online privacy." The article discusses reaction to amendments proposed by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to the 1998 Children's Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA). A requirement in the new proposals to label persistent identifiers (usernames and other data that recognize computers) as personal information subject to COPPA restrictions is particularly controversial, the article points out.

"Changing the definition of personal information, especially how we treat identifiers, completely changes the framework of privacy," states Ms. Millar in the article. As an example, she points out that if usernames become personal information, "websites would need to abandon kid-friendly features requiring usernames, or they would need to rewrite software programming to collect, store and protect far more data, to make it possible to contact parents to get parental consent for information that is considered anonymous today."

Ms. Millar suggests in the article that officials at the FTC appear to be reacting with alarm to changing technologies in the possible-mistaken belief that online behavioral advertising will track and exploit children under 13. She warns that if the FTC adopts the proposals as they now stand, longstanding brand activities would be illegal. She also predicts that compliance costs would far exceed FTC estimates with counterproductive if not chilling effects.