The Progress and Freedom Foundation has a new study on child safety and age verification called “COPPA 2.0: The New Battle over Privacy, Age Verification, Online Safety & Free Speech.”
Berin Szoka and Adam Thierer should be congratulated for their excellent and very timely paper. New Jersey and Illinois introduced legislation this year that would impose age and parental verification obligations on websites. There could be more to come.
From PFF’s news release:
PFF Fellows Szoka and Thierer argue that proposed state laws to expand the parental consent framework in the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) to include adolescents between 13 and 17 would essentially require age verification of all users of affected sites, including large numbers of adults. This would violate the First Amendment rights of adults as well as of minors and site operators. Attempts to enact such proposals at the state level would also conflict with the Commerce Clause because of the interstate nature of the Internet.
Furthermore, in light of widespread “social networking” found in most Web 2.0 websites today, expansion of parental consent requirements would be unworkable because of the increased hassles and costs of compliance. Expanding age verification mandates would also require websites to obtain more information about both minors and their parents, which runs counter to the original goal of the Act: protecting the privacy of minors. Ultimately, this would actually make minors less “safe online.” “It’s important we not overlook the privacy implications of any effort to expand COPPA to do something it was not originally intended to do,” the authors conclude. “There are better ways to protect our kids online.