‘Do Not Track Kids’ and the issues raised by a super-injunction/ Twitter/ privacy debate.

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Image from Life Hacker which also has a good blog on the topic of Do Not Track

Edward Markey (D-Mass) and Joe Barton (R-Texas) have released a discussion draft  “Do Not Track Kids Act of 2011 (for the USA)."

Views based on a very quick read of a bill which is intended to help safeguard kids’ privacy online, has provisions of wider interest:

(1) New regulations aimed at limiting data collection about children and teens, including

          (a) expansion of the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) of 1998, which would build upon COPPA’s “verifiable parental consent” model; and

          (b) a new “Digital Marketing Bill of Rights for Teens;” and

          (c) limits on collection of geolocation information about both children and teens.

(2) An Internet “Eraser Button” for Kids to help kids wipe out embarrassing facts they have place online but later come to regret.  Specifically, the bill would require online operators “to the extent technologically feasible, to implement mechanisms that permit users of the website, service, or application of the operator to erase or otherwise eliminate content that is publicly available through the website, service, or application and contains or displays personal information of children or minors.” One could say that this is modelled on a similar ideal currently being proposed in the EU, the  “right to be forgotten” online.

I expect that some of these ideals should be put into context with a recommended read of  "Delete: The Virtue of Forgetting in the Digital Age" by Viktor Mayer-Schonberger 

However, similar proposals have been presented (in the US) by the child safety group Common Sense Media (CSM)  The driving fear (always a good seller along with uncertainty and doubt) is that there is simply too much information about kids online today or that kids are voluntarily placing far too much personal information online that could come back to haunt them in the future. However, it is worth reading "Consumer Kids: How big business is grooming our children for profit" by Ed Mayo and Agnes Nairn to take a wider perspective on the issue.

Whilst totally valid concerns; fears based on old regulation and rules may not be the best route to winning the battle. Quoting Douglas Adams think Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy – "Anything invented before your fifteenth birthday is the order of nature. That’s how it should be. Anything invented between your 15th and 35th birthday is new and exciting, and you might get a career there. Anything invented after that day, however, is against nature and should be prohibited."  Further, some original research done by Orange in 2004/5 asked why kids love technology and concluded it was the place where they "escape parental control".  With this in mind – reasons to be thoughtful.

  • If we want advertising to work and allow us to have access to free services; we need to able companies to track and measure something

  • Is this about bad parenting and poor education or an understanding that our kids will push the boundary – they (we) are programmed to do it.

  • An Internet “Eraser Button”  ignoring the freedom of speech and cost issues. What happens when someone wants to tidy up something, that is relevant to stop them from working with some venerable sector of society.  The unintended consequences are far greater – the issue here is about the ideal of perfect memory and the ability for the Internet to recall, hence the ideals about the right to be forgotten.  The wider and more complex issue is why do we even store data – it is down to government regulation and wanting to know about its citizens.  How about we don't collect and store data as an alternative starting block?

  • We know that early (learned) patterns are harder to break, hence the reason that getting to them young is so important to build habits (PS I was young once) and I do have a choice (I think)

  

So where does this leave us apart from confused and south of Watford.

There is no quick fix and building new rules, guidelines and protection on the back of broken laws and regulations is not going to help.  The Ryan Giggs/ super-injunction/ Twitter/ privacy debate in the UK this week (May 2011) is a prefect example of why we need Government to step up; stop judges making new laws from old and start with something that is fit for purpose…..  tough challenges ahead and as it will not be a vote winner so I don't hold out much hope…..

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